Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement of proposed rules to prohibit menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) is showing its support by submitting pediatric-focused comments during the public comment period, May 4-July 5. Research has found that tobacco use is often established during adolescence. As stated in NAPNAP’s position statement Regarding the Use and Exposure to Tobacco Products in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults, preventing youth tobacco product use is critical because nearly nine out of 10 adult smokers initiated use before the age of 18 years, 98% initiated use before the age of 26 years and flavors are a top reason why young people start using tobacco products. Menthol reduces the harshness of cigarettes smoke and suppresses the cough reflex, providing a smooth or cool sensation making them more appealing to many new smokers
NAPNAP strongly believes the FDA’s proposed rules can create a lasting change to limit future generations of youth from becoming smokers. Menthol flavoring contributes to addiction in youth smokers, as youth remain the age group most likely to use menthol. As a result of decades of targeted marketing in minority communities, 85% of African American smokers aged 12 and older prefer menthol cigarettes, making this a significant health equity issue.
Opponents claim that banning menthol-flavored tobacco products is biased against people of color who favor these products. The FDA debunks this claim by noting that the proposed ban applies only to manufacturers and retailers, and there cannot and will not be enforcement against individual consumers possessing or using menthol products. NAPNAP believes the ban is not specifically targeted at any ethnic or racial group but rather focused on optimizing long-term health and wellbeing for all people. The NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus and a broad coalition of health care groups support the ban.
The proposed ban prohibits flavored cigars. Since 2019, more young adults tried flavored cigars for the first time than tried a cigarette for the first time. By removing flavored smoking products from the market, there is the hope to eliminate the potential desire of future smokers to try these items.
After the public comment period closes on July 5, the FDA will review the gathered comments and materials before issuing a final ruling on the prohibition of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. NAPNAP encourages pediatric health care providers, health care associations and other stakeholders to submit comments to support banning these harmful products to curb tobacco usage and save lives.
May 9, 2022