A Brief History of Flavor Bans
In 2009, Congress enacted a national ban on cigarettes with flavors other than tobacco or menthol and also gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products. Since 2009, many state and local governments have taken this one step further, proposing additional flavor bans on other tobacco products – such as cigars and dip. In the past, Utah, Washington, and cities and localities in New York and California have all proposed flavor bans that in some cases could have banned a significant portion of smokeless tobacco products! In some places, such as in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island, flavor bans have been passed.
There is a long history of adult consumer interest in flavored cigars and flavored smokeless tobacco. Tobacco products come in a wide range of flavor varieties, some which have a distinguishable dominant flavor or aroma other than tobacco. Such flavor varieties are not new; some flavor varieties of smokeless tobacco products have patents that date back more than one hundred years. Any regulation of flavored tobacco products should take into account the history of flavor varieties within each tobacco category.
Recently, some in the public health community have expressed concern that tobacco products with characterizing flavors other than tobacco may appeal to youth. Selling tobacco products—of any variety—to minors is already illegal and instituting a flavor ban on cigars or dip is not the most effective way to the address the issue regarding underage tobacco usage. Banning the sale of cigars and dip with characterizing flavors is an unfair policy that singles out adult tobacco consumers and inhibits them from buying the products they choose to enjoy. Flavor bans unfairly and unnecessarily limit the ability of adult tobacco consumers to purchase products that they prefer. Banning the sale of these products to adult smokers and dippers just isn’t fair, plain and simple. Instead of a ban depriving adult tobacco consumers of products they want, the focus should remain on responsible marketing, responsible sale at retail and reducing underage access to tobacco products.
Menthol has a long history of use in a wide range of consumer products, including cigarettes. Menthol is a well-established flavor preference that a significant percentage of adult smokers have used for decades and continue to use today. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently examining the use of menthol in cigarettes. Given the regulatory process established by Congress for evaluating menthol in cigarettes, state and local governments should allow the FDA time to complete its review of the science and evidence, before they consider any bans on menthol cigarettes. Furthermore, Federal law preempts states and localities from enacting a ban on menthol cigarettes.
A menthol ban would also result in serious adverse and unintended consequences, such as the creation of a black market for menthol cigarettes. The development of illicit trade channels threatens to undo gains in preventing underage access to tobacco products.
Citizen for Tobacco Rights is here to help adult smokers and dippers stay informed about tobacco issues important to them and learn how to effectively engage in the political process. As always, we will continue to keep you updated about the potential threat of flavor bans when they arise.