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."
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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.