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The Public Health Community has long been aware of the tremendous negative public health impacts of flavored commercial tobacco products, resulting from the tobacco industry's targeted marketing of these products to young people and minority populations. With the rapid rise in youth use of flavored e-cigarettes, in particular, and in the wake of alarming reports of vaping-related lung injuries, this concern has deepened.
While the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, enacted in 2009, prohibited the sale of most flavored cigarettes, the flavor ban did not extend to menthol flavored cigarettes or to any flavored non-cigarette tobacco products such as cigars, hookahs, and e-cigarettes. This exclusion raised serious public health concerns as studies demonstrate that flavored tobacco products, particularly menthol cigarettes, are used at disproportionately higher rates by racial and ethnic minority smokers, LGBT smokers, and teen smokers.
The public health problems associated with flavored tobacco products are now both acute and pervasive. Today hundreds of e-cigarette brands are available in thousands of kid-friendly flavors. Also, sales of flavored cigars increased by nearly 50% since 2008 and they now comprise a majority of the cigar market. Flavorings in tobacco products make them more appealing to young people, masking the harshness of cigarette smoke and nicotine. Over 80 percent of young people who use tobacco products report starting with a flavored product. In addition, flavors such as menthol can make quitting tobacco products more difficult.
In 2018, given the drastic growth in e-cigarette use among young people, the U.S. Surgeon General declared youth vaping an epidemic, constituting a serious public health concern driven in part by the availability of “kid-friendly flavors.” According to the recent National Youth Tobacco survey, the use of e-cigarettes among high school students continues to rise — from 20.8 percent in 2018 to 27.5 percent in 2019. Despite this, flavored non-cigarette tobacco products continue to be on the market in most parts of the country.
Many local communities have taken significant steps to address this problematic regulatory gap by passing restrictions on the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. More recently, amid serious health concerns associated with e-cigarette use, a growing number of states and Tribal governments are taking bold action to limit youth access to e-cigarettes, particularly flavored products.
On September 11, 2019, the White House announced the federal government plans to act to ban flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol flavored products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will reportedly develop guidelines to prohibit all e-cigarette flavors (excluding tobacco flavor).
Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).
A practical guide for communities and policymakers interested in drafting and implementing policies that regulate flavored tobacco products.
Examples from select U.S. jurisdictions that restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, including excerpts from legislation and information on legal challenges.