The Food and Drug Administration said it will issue preliminary findings on the health effects of menthol cigarettes this year after outside advisers review an internal report starting next month.
The U.S. market for menthol tobacco products is $25 billion a year, or about 30 percent of cigarette sales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government. Lorillard Inc. (LO) of Greensboro, North Carolina, makes the best-selling brand, Newport, with sales of $5 billion a year. Marlboro Menthol, made by Richmond, Virginia-based Altria Group Inc. (MO) and the Kool and Salem brands sold by Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) of Winston Salem, North Carolina, are other leading brands.
The FDA is weighing whether to outlaw sales of flavored cigarettes, including menthol products, under a 2009 law that gave the agency regulatory authority over tobacco products. An outside panel advised regulators in a March report that while menthol cigarettes weren’t proven to be more harmful, removing them from the market would improve public health partly because the mint-flavored cigarettes attract new smokers.
The agency doesn’t face a deadline to make a decision, Jeff Ventura, an agency spokesman, said by telephone.
More than 20 percent of adults in the U.S., or 46 million people, smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Smoking is the nation’s biggest cause of preventable death, killing about 443,000 people a year, according to the public-health agency.