Menthol Cigarette Ban Being Considered

Not surprisingly, according to the tobacco industry, <"">menthol cigarettes are not more dangerous than nonmenthol cigarettes, reports CNN. The announcement came at the start of a two-day federal advisory panel meeting moderated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products; the committee also includes three nonvoting members who represent industry.

The meeting is being held in Rockville, Maryland and the panel is expected to issue its recommendations on menthol-flavored cigarettes by March 23, 2011, said CNN.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America, with cigarettes linked to some 443,000 deaths and $100 billion spent in healthcare costs annually. A prior Associated Press report noted that over 126 million nonsmokers in this country are exposed to tobacco smoke on an ongoing basis and, in 2006, the Surgeon General announced that “overwhelming scientific evidence” was associated with tens of thousands of fatalities from cardiac disease, lung cancer, and other deadly diseases due to second- and third-hand smoke.

Menthol cigarettes, said CNN, account for about 25 percent of all the cigarettes sold in the United States and—along with all flavored cigarettes—have been under examination by health officials and watchdog groups over claims that the menthol flavor makes cigarettes more addictive and that marketing campaigns are targeting minorities.

As a matter-of-fact, a study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, most—about three-quarters—of all African-American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, wrote CNN. Regardless, Leonard Jones, director of marketing at Lorillard Tobacco Company, argues that “ethnicity does not play a role” in how it markets Newport menthol cigarettes, quoted CNN. “We don’t collect or retain information on ethnicity in our marketing data base,” added Jones.

Phillip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and Lorillard Tobacco Company are all expected to present scientific evidence proving that menthol cigarettes are not any more harmful than regular cigarettes, reported CNN. The panel consists of 12 members and is overseeing the implementation of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The panel could either call for a ban on menthol cigarettes or for reduction in the amount of menthol flavoring used in cigarettes, said CNN.

Late last year we wrote that the FDA announced a ban—authorized by the then-emerging Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—on cigarettes that contain fruit, candy, or clove flavoring. The Act is part of a national effort by the FDA to reduce smoking in America.

Manufacturers have admitted to using ingredients such as cocoa, coffee, and menthol, to name a few, said the AP, to improve the taste of cigarettes; however, other ingredients, which have not been disclosed, could make cigarettes more dangerous, even more addictive, said the AP.

The meeting is being streamed live on the FDA’s website, said CNN.

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