Merkley: “The Longer Menthol Cigarettes Remain on the Market, the More Harm the Public Will Face”

Biden administration announces delay in finalizing ban on menthol cigarettes; rule that was originally to be finalized in August 2023

Washington D.C. – Today, following the Biden administration’s announcement of a delay in finalizing a federal rule to ban menthol cigarettes, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement:

“I’m deeply disappointed that the Biden administration is dragging its feet in finalizing a critical rule banning menthol cigarettes. The longer menthol cigarettes remain on the market, the more harm the public will face.

“Ten years ago, the FDA released a report that found menthol cigarette use is associated with more youth and young adults starting to smoke, greater signs of nicotine dependence, and less success in stopping smoking. Yet, these products are still allowed on the market, harming consumers and disproportionately impacting Black smokers, who are almost three times as likely to use menthol cigarettes as non-Hispanic white smokers.

“This is a public health crisis and the administration must center the health and safety of consumers in its decision-making process and finalize this rule by the end of the year.”

Past attempts at regulating menthol cigarettes have seen an alarming trend of stalled action from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In both 2013 and 2018, the FDA published a notice of proposed rulemaking to obtain information related to the potential regulation of menthol in cigarettes.In March 2019, the FDA announced that it was considering removing flavored cigars that were on the market as of August 8, 2016. And finally, in April 2022, the FDA announced its intention to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes, and all flavored cigars.

In April 2023, on the one year anniversary of the FDA’s announcement of its intention to ban menthol cigarettes, Merkley led 21 senators in a letter to the FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, urging the agency to promptly finalize its April 28, 2022 announced proposed rules to end the sale of menthol flavor in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars.