Menthol Cigarettes Scrutinized by FDA
A discussion on the future of menthol cigarettes will begin at the first meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, the New York Times reported March 29.
Congress gave new tobacco regulation powers to the FDA last year, but punted the issue of what to do with menthol-flavored cigarettes, setting a two-year deadline for FDA to develop new regulations.
Determining if there is added harm to menthol cigarettes — sales of which make up nearly a third of the $70-billion cigarette market — is a racially and politically charged topic. African Americans prefer menthol brands, and critics say that menthols produce a smoother cigarette targeted to attract first-time smokers.
Given the size of the industry and its potential impact on the economy, an outright ban on menthols seems unlikely, said David J. Adelman, an industry analyst for Morgan Stanley. Added warnings, and perhaps an additional tax, are the more likely outcomes, he said.
The advisory committee is comprised of nine FDA appointed scientists and one non-voting member from the tobacco industry, J. Daniel Heck of Lorillard, which manufactures Newport, the most popular brand of menthol. The FDA panel’s initial meeting is expected to last two days, with a follow-up scheduled for the summer.