Ban on Menthol Cigarettes – To Be or Not to Be?

April 11th, 2011 12:28

Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, the representative of the federal advisory panel on tobacco, whose report lead to price increases on menthol cigarettes, states the investor enthusiasm may be untimely. “What is crucial for their benefit are what steps the FDA actually undertakes,” he told in a press conference. And Dr. Samet, a professor at the University of Southern California, declared that the panel’s scientific report offers sufficient evidence to the FDA in order to withdraw or restrict menthol flavoring in cigarettes. The group disclosed that menthol additives if comparing with non-menthol ones, possess a public health risk as it makes it easier to begin smoking and more complicated for some smokers to kick the habit.

While the group under the direction of Dr. Samet did not advise a particular policy to eradicate or ban menthol cigarettes that was never its role he stated at the pres conference, underlining the word “scientific” in its formal title, Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee. Also Dr. Samet disagreed with affirmations by some stock analysts and public health advocates that the panel hadn’t made an evident recommendation. “Menthol cigarettes elimination from the market would improve public health in the United States.” Unlike an FDA the advisory committee, which could advice removal of an unsafe drug or a black-box warning, the FDA tobacco panel has no data on evident cut policy options. Samet underlined that would make it even more important to permit the agency evaluate the options and their results before acting – mainly in the litigious tobacco field. “I will be supervising with interest what the FDA does next,” Samet said.

menthol flavoring in cigarettes

Menthol cigarettes themselves do not present a greater risk to individual smokers, the report found, but they present a greater risk in the overall public health by raising the number of smokers and smoking related diseases. Menthol cigarettes are usually smoked disproportionately by youngsters and African-Americans. Shares in Lorillard Tobacco, the leading tobacco manufacturer of menthol cigarettes with the Newport brand, increased by 10% after the panel published its report, and they have continued to increase.

David J. Adelman, tobacco analyst for Morgan Stanley, stated that the scientific report was a “beneficial development” because it did not box in the FDA policy options. “The committee has done just what Congress instructed when it adopted the 2009 law allowing the FDA authority over tobacco products. At present FDA should act quickly and introduce all committee’s recommendations,” declared a representative of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The FDA does not have any time frame or deadline to act on menthol. Dr. Samet, has found himself blamed from both sides over tobacco. While some health advocates blame him of prudence, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco plead the FDA because they declared Dr. Samet was preconceived against them.

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