Maui News

Hawaiʻi Health Department monitoring proposed ban on sale of menthol cigarettes

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The White House is expected to make a final decision on the rule to end the sale of menthol-flavor cigarettes nationwide this March. (PC: JD Pells)

According to the Center of Disease Control, if finalized, a proposed rule to end the sale of menthol-flavor cigarettes in the United States may lead an estimated 4,400 Hawaiʻi adults who smoke to quit smoking, due to the demographic’s disproportionate rates of menthol use.

“The tobacco industry has aggressively marketed menthol cigarettes to specific groups of people, including Native Hawaiians, for decades,” according to the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH). “And these tobacco industry tactics worked.”

According to the DOH, most recent cigarette-use data shows that nearly 87% of Native Hawaiians and 84% of Filipinos who smoke use menthol cigarettes. The tobacco industry also targets youth, young adults, women and LGBTQ+ populations with menthol marketing.


Federal efforts to ban the sale of menthol as a flavor in cigarettes have been underway for more than 10 years, without ever passing. But with an election approaching, there is more pressure on the White House to make an internal decision, per CNN.

The White House is expected to make a final decision on the federal rule in March. The rule was proposed by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Some states, including Massachusetts and California, have already prohibited the sale of menthol cigarettes.

To prepare for the potential of a menthol-sale ban, the DOH is emphasizing resources to quit tobacco, including the free and confidential Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline and My Life, My Quit Hawai‘i for teenagers.


Tobacco companies add menthol to cigarettes, chew, and vapes. Menthol creates a cooling effect in the lungs and throat when smoking, making it easier to inhale nicotine deeply, leading to larger hits of tobacco.

“These long, deep hits increase the amount of nicotine that goes into the body and increases the risk of addiction when compared to non-menthol cigarettes,” DOH officials said. “New tobacco users usually start with menthol products because they’re less harsh and easier to inhale. Many smokers continue with menthol for the same reasons.”

The DOH added that menthol in cigarettes makes it more likely that youth and young adults will try smoking, and it increases chances that young people who start smoking cigarettes will continue to smoke on a regular basis. According to the DOH, when high school students in Hawai‘i were asked if they had smoked menthol cigarettes in the past 30 days, just over half or 53.5% said yes in 2019.


“The Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline is ready to help people looking to quit cigarettes,” said Lola Irvin, Department of Health Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division Administrator. “The Quitline provides confidential counseling and free nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges to help people increase their chances of quitting tobacco and vaping.”

To reach the Hawai‘i Tobacco Quitline, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669. You can also visit

For teens, My Life, My Quit Hawai‘i is a free and confidential program with trained coaches to help those up to 17 years old quit smoking or vaping. To sign up, text “Start My Quit” to 36072 or call 1-855-891-9989. You can also visit


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