FDA advisory committee report: Menthol cigarettes should be banned

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The Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) issued a draft report earlier today advocating a ban on menthol cigarettes. Their statement said, “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit the public health.” This was based on studies which have indicated a higher rate of smoking-related diseases among African-Americans, who overwhelmingly prefer menthol cigarettes.

As ACSH has detailed in its own menthol report, which ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross presented to TPSAC last November, menthol cigarettes are no more harmful — nor any safer — than regular cigarettes. And an earlier draft chapter released by the TPSAC agreed that menthol in cigarettes did not present any specific health concerns.

The TPSAC was charged with drafting the report in order to aid the FDA in deciding whether to include mentholated varieties in its ban of flavored cigarettes. Dr. Ross, however, does not think that menthol will be banned. “While TPSAC may make recommendations to restrict or even ban menthol, I don’t think that’s likely. I think the FDA, when they make the final decision, will go with some restrictions. Whatever the case may be, as with any other advisory panel, the FDA doesn’t have to follow the committee’s recommendations. And the committee — some of whose members have clear conflicts of interest when it comes to tobacco-related issues — did not give adequate consideration to the likely consequence of a huge black market in illicit menthol cigarettes if the ban is approved by the FDA.”