The Menthol Issue

We fight against the marketing and sale of deadly tobacco products to African Americans. 

The Fight Against Menthol

NAATPN continues to fight against the marketing and sales of deadly tobacco products to African Americans. The tobacco industry has used excessive targeted marketing to increase sales and profits for years.  Through sponsorship of golf outings, bowling/softball tournaments, street festivals and major music concerts in cities across the nation, the tobacco industry has maintained a visible presence in the black community. 



  • How the industry is marketing menthol cigarettes: the audience, the message and the medium. Tobacco Control (November 2015). The tobacco industry continues to spend millions of dollars promoting menthol cigarettes through channels that preferentially target vulnerable subgroups, such as African-Americans and younger consumers. 


  • A systematic review of neighborhood disparities in point-of-sale tobacco marketing. American Journal of Public Health  (September 2015). Neighborhoods with lower income have more tobacco marketing. There is more menthol marketing targeting urban neighborhoods and neighborhoods with more Black residents. Smokeless tobacco products are targeted more toward rural neighborhoods and neighborhoods with more White residents. 



In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, banning all flavorings from cigarettes except menthol, but granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to extend that ban to include menthol. In 2011, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which was given the task to investigate the logic and reasoning for banning menthol and making recommendations to FDA on how to regulate it.


The concluded of the Scientific Advisory Committee was to ban or the removal of menthol cigarettes from the market.  The position of the committee was that it would be in the best interest of public health and would benefit citizens to ban menthol cigarettes from the market. In 2013, the FDA released its own report, drawing similar conclusions. Despite the consensus regarding the benefits of banning menthol, the FDA has yet to act.


To read the full report click here.




Why the FDA Should Ban Menthol Cigarettes

A comprehensive scientific review of menthol cigarettes released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) list all the reasons why menthol cigarettes should be banned.


Mint flavoring in cigarettes makes it harder to quit, and is disproportionately more harmful to public health than regular smokes. The peppermint oil extract isn't to blame for causing lung cancer, emphysema, or other smoking-related diseases.


People not only start smoking menthols earlier in life; menthol smokers also light up earlier in the morning, wake up to smoke more at night, have lower rates of quitting smoking and higher rates of relapsing if they do quit.


Menthols are popular with black smokers, more than 80 percent of whom use menthol cigarettes. About 30 percent of Latino smokers also choose menthols. Among white smokers, a little more than 20 percent smoke menthols.


"Are menthol cigarettes are more addictive? I can’t say that, but I can tell you it goes beyond simple flavoring. Mixing menthol with tobacco is almost like spiking your vodka with beer," says Nadine Kabbani, assistant professor molecular neuroscientist, Virginia's George Mason University.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law in June 2009, gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products. The law made the sale of most flavored additives including fruit and candy flavoring illegal in order to protect youth and young adults, however the law exempted menthol-flavored cigarettes. Menthol flavored cigarettes and other tobacco products are preferred by most youth and young adult tobacco users because they are perceived as less harsh and easier to smoke. Menthol’s exclusion from the list of banned flavorings prompted seven former Secretaries of Health, including Drs. Joseph Califano and Louis Sullivan, and a former Surgeon General to write a joint letter with the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network that vehemently opposed the exclusion of menthol from the list of banned flavors.


The FDA commissioned the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) to submit a report and recommendation to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the impact of the use of menthol in cigarettes on the public health – including use among children, African Americans, Hispanics, and other racial/ethnic minorities.

Programs that Work

Best practices are determined by evidence-based analysis of state tobacco control programs and published evidence of effective tobacco control strategies. On the basis of this analysis, experience, and evidence, CDC recommends that states establish and sustain comprehensive tobacco control programs.  Investing in comprehensive tobacco control programs and implementing evidence-based interventions have been shown to reduce youth initiation, tobacco-related disease and death, and tobacco-related health care costs and lost productivity.   


Overarching Components of Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs

  • State and community interventions.

  • Mass-reach health communication interventions.

  • Cessation interventions.

  • Surveillance and evaluation.

  • Infrastructure, administration, and management.

  • Increasing the price of tobacco products

  • Enacting comprehensive smoke-free policies

  • Funding hard hitting mass-media campaigns

  • Making cessation services fully accessible to tobacco users


Integrated budget structures for implementing interventions are proven to be effective, and the minimum recommended state budget amount required to reduce tobacco use in each state.


Information for each of these components includes:

  • Justification for the program intervention

  • Considerations for achieving equity to reduce tobacco-related disparities

  • Budget recommendations for successful implementation

  • References to assist with implementation




Menthol Fact Sheet