Call to Re-examine Menthol Flavoring in Tobacco

Published on March 31st, 2011 10:41

An advisory committee appointed by the Food and Drug Administration declared last week that banning menthol-flavored cigarettes from the market would improve public health in the country but refrained from advising the FDA to restrict or prohibit the flavoring.

The panel admitted evidence demonstrated that mentholated cigarettes carried more harm than non-menthol ones. The chairman of the panel, Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, declared that they have found sufficient scientific evidence proving that menthol-flavored cigarettes were more dangerous, a finding that could give legal base for the FDA to restrict or prohibit menthol flavoring in tobacco.

menthol flavoring cigarettes

The committee discovered that scientific evidence did not demonstrate that users of mentholated cigarettes inhaled more harmful substances or were exposed to a higher risk of health complications than smokers of regular-flavored cigarettes. However, it did mention the public health effect, finding that availability of menthol-flavored cigarettes contributed to making smoking more appealing to adolescents, especially African-Americans since the flavoring makes tobacco less harsh. The report issued by the panel said that taking menthol-flavored cigarettes from the market would improve public health across the nation.

Menthol flavoring was initially added to tobacco in the 1920s. Although Congress prohibited all flavorings in tobacco products, it required the FDA to examine the issue of menthol flavoring, and entitled the agency to regulate tobacco industry in 2009.

The report revealed by the committee last Friday, is the step in what is believed to be a difficult test of the FDA’s regulatory powers regarding further actions on tobacco products. The agency will examine the report and carry out their own study, Dr. Lawrence R. Deyton, chairman of the Center for Tobacco Products at the FDA, declared after the report was issued, noting that the Center would disclose a progress report by summer.

Any federal decision would be preceded by an introduced measure, several rounds of public feedback, and surely, legal action. Two major cigarette companies started litigation in February attempting to prevent the FDA from considering the advisory panel’s recommendation, stating that several voting members of the committee had bias and interest conflict, an assertion the federal agency denied.

Whereas many anti-smoking organizations welcomed the report as the first victory in the struggle to ban menthol flavoring, others criticized the panel for failing to give tougher recommendations to the FDA.

Industry experts admitted they thought the FDA could take reasonable action at the utmost. Menthol-flavored cigarettes represent nearly 28 percent of the $80billion-a-year U.S. cigarette market and almost 20 million smokers – the most part of whom are African-Americans prefer menthol cigarettes. According to the report, mentholated cigarettes are the regular choice for 80 percent of African-American smokers and more than 20 percent of non-Hispanic smokers, and around 50 percent of underage smokers.

Prof. Gregory N. Connolly, who resigned from the advisory committee three months ago stated that the panel’s lack of strong recommendation over the restrictions of menthol was unfortunate, as they had to recommend and not to meditate.

By Joanna Johnson, Staff Writer. Copyright © 2011 TobaccoPub.com. All rights reserved.


Related tags: menthol | health | menthol cigarettes | tobacco consumption | usa | flavored cigarette

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