Menthol Summit

FDA panel to consider limits or ban on menthol

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) panel will consider this week the health impacts of mint flavoring in cigarettes in a move that could lead to limiting or banning menthol cigarettes, said a Dow Jones report. The issue is of central importance to the tobacco industry since menthol cigarettes account for approximately one-third of the $70 billion U.S. cigarette market, the news agency said.

The FDA panel will hear testimony July 15 and 16 on menthol's health risks, and whether it masks the taste of cigarettes and makes them more addictive. The panel [image-nocss] will also examine the marketing of menthol cigarettes and which populations are most likely to smoke them, amid evidence the products are widely used by women and African Americans.

The committee will receive updates on upcoming committee business related to menthol, including FDA requests for information from industry on menthol cigarettes in order to prepare for the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee's required report to the Secretary of Health & Human Services regarding the impact of use of menthol in cigarettes on the public health, and it will hear and discuss industry presentations on menthol in cigarettes as they relate to five topics: characterization of menthol, clinical effects of menthol, biomarkers of disease risk, marketing data and population effects.

Click herefor details.

Most tobacco flavorings were banned in the Tobacco Control Act signed into law in June 2009 amid concerns that flavorings lure children to smoke. Menthol was not included. The law also gave the FDA the power to regulate all tobacco products. The agency is now considering regulating, limiting or banning menthol's use.

Tobacco industry representatives have insisted that menthol cigarettes pose no additional risks.

"The science is clear and compelling that there is no differing health risk between menthol and nonmenthol products," Bill True, a Lorillard Inc. senior vice president, said in a statement.

Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard manufactures Newport and Kent cigarettes. The company recently launched new website, "Understanding Menthol," that focuses on the scientific evidence surrounding the public health impact of menthol in cigarettes. (Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage.)

Public health advocates, however, argue that menthol could have an impact on initiation and cessation of smoking.

This is the second time the advisory panel will meet since it was established earlier this year. It is expected to hold one or two more full committee meetings before it issues a final recommendation to the FDA in March 2011. The FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its panels.