Big Tobacco Files Suit Over FDA Menthol Cigarette Panel

In the ongoing war with Big Tobacco, a lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by two leading players from industry: Lorillard Inc and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. The cigarette makers allege that “conflicts of interest and bias” existed on an advisory panel that may recommend <"">menthol cigarettes be banned, said Medical News Today.

As we’ve previously explained, while FDA panel recommendations are not legally binding, the FDA does generally follow the advice of its panels. The panel will likely make its recommendations by March 23rd, said Medical News today. According to Medical News Today, one in three cigarettes sold in the United States is a menthol cigarette; R.J. Reynolds sells Camel and Kool mentholated cigarettes and Lorillard sells Newport, the leading selling menthol cigarette in the U.S.

In 2009, legislation passed enabling the FDA to make decisions concerning tobacco products, including cigarettes; the agency “banned fruit, chocolate, and other flavored cigarettes,” which many believe are marketed to entice younger smokers, noted Medical News Today. The new legislation asked the agency to enlist an external panel to review the “health and social” elements of menthol cigarettes prior to determining if a ban should be implemented, explained Medical News Today.

According to the lawsuit, three of the panel’s members have been accused of being involved in “severe financial and appearance conflicts of interest and associated biases,” because pharmaceutical companies have allegedly paid the advisors for “consultation work and research” and because those companies manufacture products meant to help smokers quit, wrote Medical News Today. The lawsuit also claims that two other members of the panel’s sub-committee have been expert witnesses in lawsuits against cigarette makers, Medical News Today added.

Meanwhile, last week we wrote that the Justice Department announced that it is seeking some public, honest disclosure from Big Tobacco, including admission that the industry lied about so-called light cigarettes and the addictiveness of nicotine. The Justice Department also noted that smoking Cigarettes leads to an array of medical issues and kills some 1,200 Americans each day, said Bloomberg Businessweek previously. Industry is expected to argue against the verbiage, recently seeking an extension for its response; the request was denied and industry has until Thursday.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America and is linked to some 443,000 deaths and $100 billion in healthcare costs annually. Second-hand smoke has been linked to a variety of health issues; contains over 4,000 substances, including over 50 known or suspected carcinogens; and is linked to many diseases in adults and children, such as sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, asthma, coronary heart disease, lung and sinus cancers, sinus problems, mental problems, and hearing loss. Smoking has also recently been linked to colorectal cancer, creating damage in the body just minutes after inhaling for the first time, increasing risks for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and significantly increasing arterial stiffness in people as young as 18 to 30.

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