FDA chief: Menthol, tobacco flavors could do 'both harm and good'

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said Thursday that the use of flavors in different tobacco products could potentially do "both harm and good." FDA will examine both possibilities as it considers prohibiting flavors such as menthol in cigarettes and e-cigarettes, he said.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said Thursday that the use of flavors in different tobacco products could potentially do "both harm and good." FDA will examine both possibilities as it considers prohibiting flavors such as menthol in cigarettes and e-cigarettes, he said. FDA said 4 years ago that menthol cigarettes were more difficult to quit and likely posed a higher health risk than regular cigarettes—findings the tobacco industry has rejected. Since then, the agency has been considering regulatory action on menthol sales but has remained quiet on the issue for the last few years. Speaking Thursday at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Gottlieb said: "On this issue, we see two sides—on the one hand, we need to know the role that flavors, including menthol, play in attracting youth to initiate tobacco use. But on the other hand, we also need to know whether ... certain flavors may help adult cigarette smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery" such as e-cigarettes. He said FDA planned to issue regulations based on flavors' "net impact to public health."