Cigarette Makers Look Forward to Full FDA Menthol Review

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Cigarette Makers Look Forward to Full FDA Menthol Review

By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News - 03/18/2011

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Just hours after the release of a draft report from the Food and Drug Administration's Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee that endorsed the ban of menthol, leading cigarette manufacturers said they look forward to working with the FDA as the agency reviews the hot-button issue.

"The agency now has input from the Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), tobacco manufacturers and industry representatives, and from the general public," said Jeffery S. Gentry, executive vice president of operations and chief scientific officer for R.J. Reynolds. "As the director of the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA said in his remarks today, the TPSAC report does not set FDA policy and it does not set FDA actions. It is information that the agency will take into consideration in its analysis."

Gentry was referring to Dr. Lawrence Deyton's assertion that the FDA is not working on any timetable to take action, if any action at all, on the non-binding recommendation, as CSNews Online reported this morning.

"Several key issues, such as a potential increase in cigarette smuggling and contraband if menthol cigarettes were eliminated from the market, need additional study," Gentry said. "We continue to believe that any final decision by the agency should be based on sound science, and we look forward to continuing to provide information and our perspectives on this issue to the agency as it undertakes this process."

Lorillard echoed R.J. Reynolds' desire to work with the FDA as the potentially lengthy process moves forward. "While we fundamentally disagree, we are not surprised by what we believe is TPSAC's unsubstantiated conclusion relative to the impact of menthol cigarettes on public health," stated Murray S. Kessler, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lorillard. "Most importantly, TPSAC's report is just the first step in what we believe will be a very long process that ultimately does not result in the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace, especially when contraband and other unintended consequences are seriously considered."

While all cigarette makers will be affected if menthol use is eventually banned, Lorillard could be hit particularly hard. Newport, the Greensboro, N.C. headquartered company's flagship brand, is the top-selling menthol cigarette in the country.

The TPSAC's final report is due March 23. Today's non-binding recommendation comes three weeks to the day after Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds filed suit to stop the FDA from receiving or relying on recommendations it may receive from its scientific advisory committee, as CSNews Online previously reported.