US regulators consider limiting sale of menthol cigarettes
Cigarettes raise critical public health questions, Food and Drug Administration says
“Menthol cigarettes raise critical public health questions,” said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Photograph: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
US regulators are considering limiting the sale of menthol cigarettes after concluding that the minty-flavoured products may pose a greater risk to public health than regular cigarettes.
The US Food and Drug Administration said yesterday it was looking at regulations to restrict or ban the use of menthol flavouring in cigarettes and invited comment from the tobacco industry, health advocates and the public.
“Menthol cigarettes raise critical public health questions,” said Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner. “Public input will help us make more informed decisions about how best to tackle this important issue.”
While smoking has been in decline in the US for years, rates of menthol use have risen, particularly among young adults, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The FDA’s latest move comes as the European parliament is moving towards banning sales of menthol and other flavoured cigarettes. Last year Brazil outlawed all flavoured smokes, saying the additives spur youth smoking.
Menthol cigarettes have been one of the few areas of growth for the tobacco industry, accounting for about 30 per cent of the US cigarette market, according to Lorillard, which makes Newport, the biggest US menthol brand with a 40 per cent market share. Lorillard said the FDA’s report had been expected and it was “encouraged” by the regulator’s “science-based approach”.
“It is Lorillard’s long-held belief that the best available science demonstrates that menthol cigarettes have the same health effects as non-menthol cigarettes and should be treated no differently,” said Murray Kessler, chief executive.
The FDA said yesterday that while the additive itself is not more dangerous to smokers, it may be associated with increased dependence, increased difficulty in quitting, and more young people starting smoking.
Menthol in cigarettes “is likely associated with greater addiction,” the FDA said in its preliminary review of scientific studies. In particular, it added, data show that young people may be more likely to start smoking if they use menthols. – (Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2013)