FDA to Consider Menthol Restrictions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The tobacco advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will consider next week the health impacts of menthol cigarettes, which could possibly open the doors for limitations, regulations or a ban on the flavoring, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report.

The FDA panel will hear testimony July 15 and 16, on menthol's health risks, including whether or not the addititive masks the taste of cigarettes or makes them more addictive. The panel will also examine menthol cigarettes' marketing, and which populations are most likely to smoke them, the report stated.

Most tobacco flavorings were banned as part of the June 2009 Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA authority to regulate cigarettes and tobacco products, however, menthol was not included.

Tobacco industry representatives have argued menthol cigarettes pose no additional risks.

"The science is clear and compelling that there is no differing health risk between menthol and non-menthol products," Bill True, Lorillard Inc. senior vice president, said in a statement cited by the news agency. Lorillard manufactures the No. 1 U.S. menthol cigarette brand, Newport.

Public health advocates, meanwhile, claim menthol could have an impact on initiation and cessation of smoking.

"If menthol causes more people to start or makes it harder for people to quit, then that causes harm," Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in the report.

Next week will mark the second time the panel will meet. It is also expected to hold one or two additional full committee meetings before issuing a final recommendation to the FDA in March 2011, the report stated.

In other FDA regulatory news, the agency's Center for Tobacco Products will conduct in Boston the first of five retailer training sessions July 19, on the new federal tobacco regulations, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) reported.

The seminar is scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m., at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, 110 Huntington Avenue, Boston.

Topics to be discussed include:

-- Who is subject to the regulations and what tobacco products are regulated. -- Prohibition of sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to persons younger than 18. -- Self-service displays and vending machines; minimum cigarette and smokeless tobacco package size. -- Prohibition of free samples of cigarettes. -- Coupons; non-tobacco gift or items; and sponsorships. -- Flavored cigarette ban; and cigarettes with descriptors such as “Light,” “Low” and Mild.”

Retailers may participate in the session in person, over the phone or by Webcast, according to NATO.

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