How Will Menthol Ban Affect US Tobacco Market Landscape?


Ellesmere Zhu


On Jan. 12, 2023, FDA held a lecture themed "FDA Grand Rounds: The Scientific Basis of Proposed Tobacco Product Standards to Prohibit Menthol as a Characterizing Flavor in Cigarettes and Flavors in Cigars" to endorse the agency's effort on menthol ban. 


How Will Menthol Ban Affect US Tobacco Market Landscape?
Source: FDA


The U.S. Tobacco Control Act was first introduced in 2009, and since then the FDA has gained the authority to control tobacco products at the federal level. The menthol ban is the latest step in the U.S. tobacco control dynamic, and its control is even stronger than the flavor ban.


As early as 2009, when the Tobacco Control Act was introduced, the FDA announced a ban on cigarette flavors, including Mint flavor, but excluding Menthol. It is because mint is a tobacco flavor, and menthol is an extract of natural mint, menthol-added cigarettes have a cold sensation when used, but do not provide any taste. This is the difference between mint flavor and menthol. Thus, by banning menthol, the appeal of cigarettes is further limited as no more cooling effect can be provided while inhaling. 


The April 2022 menthol ban does not yet encompass e-cigarettes, but FDA has denied some PMTA applications for menthol e-cigarettes, and these e-cigarette manufacturers have filed appeals in U.S. federal court, the outcome of which is not yet known.


It is also worth noting that states have tremendous power, so the FDA's enforcement efforts cannot go deep. In fact, as of today, most U.S. states still allow the sale of flavored cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and only Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, and California currently Preview: Dialogue Between FDA and American Vapor Manufacturers

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