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Health Spotlight: Banning menthol from cigarettes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In 2009, the federal government banned almost all flavoring for tobacco products, in hopes the ban would make smoking less attractive, especially for younger people.

Health experts now say it is time for the government to ban menthol, not just in cigarettes and cigars, but from all smoking products.

For decades, menthol has been an additive for cigarettes to give the cigarettes a minty aftertaste.

Dr. Ted Wagener, the director of the Center for Tobacco Research at the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been studying the addictive potential of cigarettes, cigars, and all smoking products that contain menthol.

“It tends to make nicotine products easier to try, so, it’s easier for young people or non-tobacco use to initiate with menthol products,” Dr. Wagener said.

Dr. Wagener says that menthol can make nicotine products easier to try, so young people and non-tobacco users tend to start with menthol products. Dr. Wagener also says that menthol can affect the body’s biology differently.

“It actually changes how nicotine is metabolized in the body. Because of that, people have a tendency to have a more difficult time quitting,” Dr. Wagener said.

In 2022, the Food and Drug Administration announced a proposal to ban menthol in cigars and cigarettes, but Dr. Wagener says he and his team’s research shows the proposal doesn’t go far enough.

“It leaves open the possibility that smokers can use menthol ‘roll-your-own pipe tobacco’ and cigarette tubes to create a roll-your-own cigarette that’s mentholated,” Dr. Wagener said.

Researchers say that this move would take the teeth out of a ban designed to improve public health.

The FDA is currently reviewing public comments on its proposal and is expected to rule on it in the next few months.