No more menthol? FDA to limit tobacco flavoring

Menthol and fruit flavors make cigarettes more enticing and more addictive. Now the Food and Drug Administration is taking the first step towards possibly limiting their use in tobacco products.

The FDA moved last week to possibly lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. On Tuesday, it started asking for more input on how menthol and other flavorings make cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products more addictive and dangerous and if so, what it should do about that.

"FDA may consider restrictions on the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products," the agency said in a notice for a proposed new rule.

FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said the main goal is to protect children.

"For years we have recognized that flavors in these products appeal to kids and promote youth initiation. The data backs this up, and as a result, Congress prohibited the use of most characterizing flavors in cigarettes," Gottlieb said in a statement.

"The thought of any child starting down a path of a lifelong addiction to tobacco, which could ultimately lead to their death, is unacceptable. We need to take every effort to prevent kids from getting hooked on nicotine."

RELATED:  Graphic images raise awareness about the health risks of smoking: 

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Graphic images raise awareness about the health risks of smoking

A tobacconist dispalys new cigarette packs, plain with unbranded packaging and the health warnings, "Smoking causes nine out of ten lung cancers" (L) and "Smoking harms your lungs" (R) as part of anti-smoking legislation in a French 'Tabac' in Paris, France, January 2, 2017.

(REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

A tobacconist, wearing a mask, displays images which will be used for cigarette packaging during a protest in a French 'Tabac' in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, September 8, 2015. France's tobacconists are protesting plans to force cigarette companies to use plain, unbranded packaging, as part of anti-smoking legislation. Slogans read "smoking causes blindness, smoking causes peripheral vascular disease, smoking causes cancer".

(REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

A high school student looks at a mock up of plain cigarette packaging before the start of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016.

(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Packs of small cigars are displayed for sale by a tobacconist with health warnings as part of anti-smoking legislation in a French 'Tabac' in Paris, France, January 2, 2017.

(REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

A high school student looks at a mock up of plain cigarette packaging before the start of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016.

(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

A tobacconist sells plain cigarette packs on October 12, 2016 in Ajaccio, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

(PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images)

Mock-ups of plain cigarette packaging are seen before the start of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016.

(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Cigarette packs are seen on shelves in a tobacco shop in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, September 8, 2015. France's tobacconists are protesting plans to force cigarette companies to use plain, unbranded packaging, as part of anti-smoking legislation.

(REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

High school students look at a mock up of plain cigarette packaging before the start of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016.

(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

A picture taken on October 12, 2016 in Ajaccio shows cigarettes bound in neutral packaging. The first cigarettes bound in neutral packaging, with no logo's or branding but bearing graphic images of the potential health risks of smoking arrived at tobacconists across France on October 10, 2016.

(PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images)

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FDA's action Tuesday is the first step in a lengthy and often complicated process of changing federal rules.

It's asking for input on the effects of flavors in cigarettes, little cigars, snus and other chewed tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

Last week, the FDA asked for similar input as it considers requiring tobacco companies to reduce how much nicotine goes into cigarettes.

The FDA does not have the authority to ban tobacco products, but since it was given some powers by Congress in 2009, it has moved gradually to impose some limits of tobacco sales and marketing.

Tobacco is the single biggest cause of both heart disease and cancer and kills close to half a million people a year in the U.S. alone.

Tobacco companies have been forced to admit and advertise the fact that they colluded to make cigarettes as addictive as possible and concealed their devastating health effects.

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