Menthol Warning

Monday, March 21, 2011 - 8:02am

FDA panel may go as far as removing menthol cigarettes from U.S. market.

A federal advisory panel says menthol cigarettes are a threat to public health. It's a finding that could prompt the Food and Drug Administration to ban them altogether.

Menthol cigarettes could be taken off store shelves now that advisors to the Food and Drug Administration say there's scientific evidence that menthol makes it easier to start smoking and more difficult to quit.

Gregg Haifley of the American Cancer Society says "it adds a flavoring agent to make the flavor more attractive."

The FDA committee did not specifically recommend banning menthol cigarettes but said removing them from the market would benefit public health.

African Americans could benefit the most: 80% of black smokers use menthols.

Ellen Vargyas says "the African American community overall, there is a disproportionate burden of tobacco-related death and disease."

A statement from Kool menthol cigarette manufacturer RJ Reynolds expresses concern that a ban might increase "cigarette smuggling and contraband."

And Lorillard tobacco company, which makes the nation's top-selling menthol, Newport, says there's no evidence menthols are any more dangerous than regular cigarettes and should be treated no differently.

But the American Cancer Society's Gregg Haifley agrees with the FDA committee's findings that the minty flavoring lures young smokers.

Gregg Haifley says "menthol used by youth means that they're more likely to become regular smokers and be a part of that pattern of generational addiction."

The FDA could make a final decision within the next three months.

Menthols make up about 30% of the cigarette market.

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