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06/07/2022

Convenience & Fuel Industry Associations Request Extension of Menthol Ban Comment Period

NACS, NATSO and SIGMA ask the agency to push July 5 deadline back 60 days.
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a pack of Menthol Cigarettes

ALEXANDRA, Va. — With the clock ticking closer to the close of comment comments on two possible flavor bans at the federal level, industry groups joined in asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in pushing back the deadline.

NACS, NATSO and SIGMA have requested a 60-day extension of the comment period for the FDA's two proposed tobacco product standards that would prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and cigars.

"Given the complexity of the rules, the extensive data to analyze and the impact to the marketplace to consider, the associations are requesting a 60-day extension of the comment period. This additional time will ensure the associations and our retail members can provide FDA with detailed and meaningful comments on these complex issues," wrote the groups in a letter to the FDA.

To read the full letter, click here.

In late April, the FDA released two new product standards: one to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and the other to prohibit all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars.

If finalized and implemented, the FDA's enforcement will only address manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers, and not adult tobacco consumers who possess or use the flavored products.

The agency began taking public comments on the proposed rules on May 4. It will also hold public listening sessions on June 13 and 15 for individuals, communities and organizations to share their perspectives with the FDA. The deadline to submit comments direct directly to the dockets on the proposed rules through July 5.

Once all the comments have been reviewed and considered, the FDA will decide whether to issue final product standards. 

The menthol market accounts for roughly 34 percent of cigarette sales, and flavored cigars account for 51 percent of cigar sales. According to NACS, any ban on these products could push sales to the illicit market — which undermines the efforts of responsible retailers and poses a greater risk to communities.

"History has proven that prohibition of a legal product that has an established user base doesn't work and has negative consequences for our communities," said Anna Blom, NACS director of government relations. "Unfortunately, many current users of these products will seek out illicit sources who don't check IDs and who sell counterfeit products smuggled into the country."

Seventeen members of Congress have also sent a letter to the FDA asking it not to move forward with the proposed menthol rules.

"The FDA's rule … would decimate businesses operated by hardworking men and women who responsibly and legally sell tobacco products to adults in compliance with state and federal laws. While we will always prioritize the health of our children, banning legal products from our regulatory system for consenting adults has never and will never be good policy. A rigorous ban on menthol cigarettes will likely lead to an illicit market that puts children at risk and has the potential to financially decimate manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers, and retailers," wrote the members in a letter.

Late last month, NACS asked members to file comments on the proposed rules. Retailers can download a pre-drafted letter that can be modified to describe their business and their compliance efforts, according to the association.