Cigarette Manufacturers Fight Back as FDA Considers Ban on Menthol

Sides have been drawn in the debate over the tobacco additive, menthol, which is sprayed on tobacco to give the smoke a minty, throat-numbing, cool sensation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a ban on menthol because it tempers the harsh burn of tobacco and masks the dangers of cigarette smoking to public health.

Round one was lost in 2009 when the FDA gained the regulatory authority to ban chocolate and candy-flavored cigarettes, claiming they lured youngsters to smoke. Now with menthol on the hot seat, an FDA advisory panel met in Raleigh last week with tobacco executives and Reuters reports the tobacco giants argued there were “conflicts of interest and bias among members” of an FDA advisory panel that is expected to make a final report on a menthol ban on March 23. Lorrilard and Reynolds tobacco companies filed suit against the FDA on Friday, February 25, trying to block any FDA move to consider banning menthol-flavored cigarettes.

Menthol-flavored cigarettes make up about one-third of the U.S. market with Lorrilard’s Newport the top seller and Kool brand, by R.J. Reynolds, also a popular brand among the $83 billion in cigarettes sold annually.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that cigarette maker Philip Morris USA told the advisory panel on Wednesday, March 2, that menthol does not make smoking more dangerous than unflavored cigarettes. The advisory panel, the 12-member Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, will advise the FDA but the agency does not have to adopt its findings.

Many Americans may smoke light or menthol cigarettes believing they do not pose as great a danger as unflavored or regular cigarettes. Cigarette makers have encouraged this belief even though the National Cancer Institute found that a lower-yield cigarette does not reduce the risk for disease.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with heart disease or cancer associated with smoking, you may be entitled to receive compensation with the help of an experienced Florida tobacco attorney.