WASHINGTON - Last week the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) determined that there is scientific evidence to back up the notion that removing menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit public health in the United States.
Meanwhile, Lorillard Inc. said in a press release that TPSAC members concluded that the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health ï¿½" despite the fact that they found there was no difference in disease risk between smokers of menthol cigarettes and smokers of non-menthol cigarettes.
TPSAC did acknowledge that the potential for an illegal market in menthol cigarettes exists and therefore noted that the FDA should consult with appropriate experts should it decide to take policy action that restricts the availability of menthol cigarettes.
"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 CEO 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."
Dr. Lawrence Deyton, Director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, stated that TPSAC's recommendation is simply advice and does not set FDA policy or action and that the FDA would conduct its own review. The advisory committee recommendation is not binding and the FDA is not obligated to take any regulatory action whatsoever.
Lorillard believes that as the FDA conducts its own assessment of menthol, it will follow a rigorous scientific evaluation that will come to the same conclusion as the Industry Report on Menthol. The report clearly demonstrates that a menthol cigarette is no more dangerous than a non-menthol cigarette and should be regulated no differently and further, that the countervailing effects of any restriction in availability would overwhelm any potential public health benefit. The Industry Report will be formally submitted to the FDA by their deadline of March 23, 2011.
Background: As part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, TPSAC was created as an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a non-binding report and make recommendations on the issue of menthol's impact on the public health by March 23, 2011.
Read more about a potential menthol ban in NACS Magazine.