Kool: ACSH on controversial menthol ban in WebMD

Following a report issued by the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) last week claiming that a menthol cigarette ban would be beneficial to public health, journalist Denise Mann revisits the issue in her article for WebMD, “Are Menthol Cigarettes Riskier Than Non-Menthol?” Ms. Mann cites a study published in yesterday's Journal of the National Cancer Institute, co-authored by ACSH friend Dr. Joseph K. McLaughlin of the International Epidemiology Institute, that found menthol cigarettes to be no more harmful than non-menthol cigarettes. “I don’t think there is enough scientific evidence to justify a ban of menthol cigarettes in comparison with non-menthol cigarettes, says William J. Blot, Ph.D., of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee and another study researcher.

In the prospective study of 85,806 racially diverse adults part of the Southern Community Cohort between March 2002 and September 2009, researchers classified the participants based on their preference for menthol versus non-menthol cigarettes. On average, white menthol smokers reported smoking 1.8 fewer cigarettes per day compared to regular cigarette smokers, while black menthol smokers reported smoking 1.6 fewer cigarettes daily.

After presenting our own report on menthol to the TPSAC last November, ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross is very familiar with the issue and was quoted in the WebMD article, as well, citing the problems associated with a potential ban on menthol flavoring:

Menthol smokers have no increased risk of lung cancer or any other cigarette-related disease as compared to non-menthol smokers. It is well-known that menthol smokers smoke fewer cigarettes per day than regular cigarette smokers [and this is] but one reason why it is highly unlikely that banning menthol cigarettes will lead to a decrease in cigarette smokers.

In fact, I believe such a ban may actually increase the number of cigarettes smoked because few menthol smokers will actually quit, [instead] fleeing to illicit menthols and/or regulars. More minors will find illicit cigarettes that are easily available from sellers who neither check ID's nor pay taxes.