Teens Smoking More Menthol Cigarettes

In 2009, legislation passed enabling the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make decisions concerning tobacco products, including cigarettes. As a result, the agency banned some flavored cigarettes, such as fruit and chocolate. The new legislation also asked the FDA to enlist an external panel to look at <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">menthol cigarette health risks before making a determination to ban the products.

Reuters wrote that menthol cigarette use is increasing among teens and is “very high” for minority youth, citing U.S. government advisers in a draft report released yesterday. The report stated that over 80 percent of black teen smokers and more than half of Hispanic teen smokers use menthol cigarettes, said Reuters, drawing from a draft chapter of the report due next week. The agency will use the report in its decision to ban or limit menthol (mint flavored) cigarettes.

Health advocates claim that the menthol flavoring minimizes the tobacco’s roughness, making it easier to begin and more difficult to quit smoking, said Reuters. Industry says menthol does not make cigarette smoking more harmful or addictive. Menthol cigarettes comprise about one-third of today’s yearly U.S. cigarette sales, said Reuters, citing Euromonitor International data.

“Menthol cigarette use is very high among minority youth,” the draft said, quoted Reuters, which noted that more than half of all Asian-American middle-school smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. The report also said that the increase in teen smoking was also due, in part, to a “significant increase in the number of white youth ages 12 to 17 who are smoking menthol cigarettes.”

FDA advisers are scheduled to hold a public meeting on Thursday and Friday to talk about the findings; however, said Reuters, earlier chapters indicate that the advisers found a lack of evidence indicating that menthol cigarettes are linked to increased disease risks, but they said that flavoring might make cigarettes more addictive. The complete report is scheduled for release to the agency March 23. As we’ve previously explained, while FDA panel recommendations are not legally binding, the FDA does generally follow the advice of its panels.

A lawsuit has been filed against the FDA by two leading industry players: 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. According to the lawsuit, three 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 previously. The lawsuit also claims that two other members on the sub-committee were expert witnesses in lawsuits against cigarette makers.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America, is linked to some 443,000 fatalities and $100 billion in healthcare costs annually, and kills some 1,200 Americans every day.

We have long written that second-hand smoke has been linked to a variety of health issues; contains over 4,000 substances, including over 50 known or suspected carcinogens. Second-hand smoke is also 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; and increased risks for stillbirths and giving birth to infants with birth defects in pregnant women.
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 Lou Gehrig’s disease), and significantly increasing arterial stiffness in people as young as 18 to 30.

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