Pull menthol cigarettes, FDA advisers urge
March 18th, 2011
05:40 PM ET

Pull menthol cigarettes, FDA advisers urge

The availability of menthol-flavored cigarettes is linked to a rise in the number of children and African Americans who smoke and the cigarettes should be taken off the market, an FDA advisory committee said Friday.

The Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee met to evaluate the available science on the impact of menthol cigarettes on public health, including children, African-Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic and racial minorities. The group determined menthol cigarette smokers do not have a greater risk of diseases related to smoking when compared with non-menthol cigarette smokers. But, menthol in cigarettes increased experimentation, raised the risk of progression to a regular smoker, increased smoking among kids, and their availability increased the chance of addiction–and even the degree of addiction in children.

"The TPSAC also found that the public health impact of menthol cigarette availability is substantial," said Dr. Jonathan Samet, chair of the advisory panel. "The availability of menthol cigarettes leads to an increase in the number of cigarette smokers and the burden of premature mortality."

"The TPSAC's recommendation of removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States is simply that - a committee recommendation based on its review of current, prevailing science on the topic of menthol as an ingredient in cigarettes," said Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director, Center for Tobacco Products at the Food and Drug Administration. The report will be reviewed by experts at the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, who'll also review all of the available science related to public health implications of  menthol in cigarettes use.

According to Deyton, TPSAC's final report must be submitted to the FDA by March 23. He says the agency will then do a thorough review and consider the risks and benefits to determine if regulatory action needs to be taken. The agency will provide its first progress report on the review of the science in approximately 90 days. In the meantime, he says, there will be no effect on the availability of menthol products.

Reynolds American, parent company of RJ Reynolds and maker of a number of menthol-flavored cigarettes including the very popular Kool, Camel and Pall Mall brands, says it plans to continue working with the FDA on this issue.

“The Agency now has input from the Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), tobacco manufacturers and industry representatives, and from the general public,” said Jeffery S. Gentry, executive vice president of operations and chief scientific officer for R.J. Reynolds. “As the director of the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA said in his remarks today, the TPSAC report does not set FDA policy and it does not set FDA actions. It is information that the Agency will take into consideration in its analysis."

Gentry cautioned a number of issues still need more study, including the potential increase in cigarette smuggling and contraband if menthol cigarettes were no longer on the market.

Lorillard, the country's third largest cigarette manufacturer and maker of Newport, the top selling menthol cigarette in the country said it is confident the FDA will conclude menthol cigarettes are no more dangerous than non-menthol cigarettes and should be regulated no differently. "While we fundamentally disagree, we are not surprised by what we believe is TPSAC's unsubstantiated conclusion relative to the impact of menthol cigarettes on public health," stated Murray S. Kessler, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lorillard. "Most importantly, TPSAC's report is just the first step in what we believe will be a very long process that ultimately does not result in the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace, especially when contraband and other unintended consequences are seriously considered."

But the recommendations were hailed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, who urged the FDA to implement the committee's recommendations. In a joint statement they said: "The committee’s conclusions leave no doubt that menthol cigarettes have had a profound adverse impact on public health in the United States, resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use. It also leaves no doubt that the tobacco industry is directly responsible for the harm caused by menthol cigarettes because of its targeted marketing of children and African-American and other communities, and its manipulation of menthol cigarettes to appeal to specific target markets."

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    For those who want to quit, try Chantex. I've smoked for 35/40 yrs. I've tried everything. I'm on my second month smoke free!!!! I'm the one most surprised cause I went into it pretty much knowing it wouldn't work. I took the pills, continued to smoke my brains out. Eventually, smoking tastes so bad you just don't want to do it. So you don't feel deprived like other methods. I just hope I can do it...

    March 21, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. What!

    Yea, thats it, menthol is the leading contributor to smoking and its related health problems. And fresh air is the leading cause of heart isease.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. axiom

    Nice babbling Mike. I've got evidence to back up my claims. You're just making assumptions. Glad to see you're an expert economist. Lost productivity was already taken into account. Smokers create revenue and save the health care system money. Your ignorance doesn't change anything.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. SAM

    And sell more Booze 24/7....That makes sense

    March 21, 2011 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bob

    All this coming from an organization that stood back and said nothing while companies like RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris manipulated the nicotine levels in cigarettes to make their toxic product even more addictive. Just more phony posturing to pretend like they care about us more than corporate payoffs.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Harvey Wallbanger

    The reason why the government is coming down on the tobacco companies has nothing to do with our health; it has everything to do with money. They are starting to realize they are spending more for Medicare and Medicaid to treat smoking related diseases than they are collecting in tobacco taxes.

    The tobacco and alcohol companies are no different than the Columbia drug cartels. They are all pushing killers. The only difference between them and the cartels is they have enough addicts under their control to ever prevent their products from being abolished. Also, the drug and alcohol companies are smart enough to pay off Uncle Sugar in taxes, allowing them to operate.

    March 21, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Alicia

    I think you are all missing the point. As an ex-smoker, I wanted someone to make it illegal, it's damn hard to quit. But on the other hand, would you like someone to ban fishing, hunting, boating....what's next? This is still America right??

    March 21, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kei Yuuki

    I say, lets pull the FDA. They are a bigger health threat than Menthol Cigarettes. The FDA is nothing but a corrupt business that are lobbied by large companies to pass products quickly without adequate testing. They need to focus on imported foods from China and Mexico first, but they dont, thats why America is constantly plagued by Poisons and Ecoli every few months.

    March 21, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Joe

    Too little to late for that.

    March 22, 2011 at 07:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. T

    Why are they calling out Menthol Cigs? There are plenty of other FLAVORS of cigs available(usually only in tobacco stores not well known to gas stations etc). Plus why does race matter??????

    Why isn't there a study on vanilla cigarettes and kids?

    March 22, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Steve

    How stupid is it possible to be? The available of menthol cigarettes is a significant health risk? Pulling them from the market will reduce that health risk? How about: the availability of all cigarettes is a very significant health risk. I don't buy the argument. If cigarettes are available at all, then it matters little whether methol cigarattes are available. I just see it as the FDAs attempt to appear if they are doing something, without really jeopardizing the livelyhoods of the tobacco companies.
    If they ban methol cigarettes, tobacco companies will respond with peppermint, spearmint or other flavored cigarettes. Banning menthol could actually make the problem worse by encouraging the introduction of new flavors.

    March 22, 2011 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Chad

    Big business is the factor here. Money is the be-all and end-all. 'Nuff said.

    March 23, 2011 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dee

    ok, let me understand this insanity, ...you want to remove menthol cigarette's because "the elite" think it's bad for our health?? ..Umm, let's talk about allowing carpet glue to be added to the paper of that cigarette. It is a proven fact that burning carpet glue is deadly, yet you allow that. How is this supposed to make sense?

    I am educated enoug to know how stupid this whole, "removal of menthol cigarette's" is, ..next the gov will be saying, "well, we determine it to be bad for your health, so now ALL cigarettes will be taken off the market" ..What happened to freedom of CHOICE?? ..I'd like my cig's to taste like they used to. ..you know, ..without the extra chemicals & glue that has been added to them!

    March 28, 2011 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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