Issue Date: Tobacco E-News March 15, 2011

TPSAC Meets on Menthol
Associations and tobacco manufacturer speak out at public hearing.
-By Linda Abu-Shalback Zid
ROCKVILLE, Md.--Next week, the FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee is due to provide the FDA a report and recommendations on the impact of the use of menthol in cigarettes on the public health.

Toward that goal, TPSAC held a meeting earlier this month, which included an open public hearing consisting of four speakers:

David Levy, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation/Legacy. In the absence of a menthol ban, Levy's research found that the percentage of smokers who smoke menthol would increase slowly over time. While there would be a downward trend in overall smoking prevalence from 18.1% in 2003 to 9.2% in 2050, menthol market share would increase among men, from 23% in 2003 to 27% in 2050.

If a ban were to be implemented, he said that according to his research, there would be a "fairly immediate effect," including "between 323,000 and 633,000 deaths averted."

Jane Lewis, Altria Client Services. Lewis said that Philip Morris USA (PM USA) has shared in-depth analysis, including 3,600 internal documents, with the FDA. The company's own analysis has found that menthol cigarettes do not result in increased toxicity compared to nonmenthol cigarettes, nor does it increase dependence.

Research on the impact of menthol on smoking initiation is currently limited, she said, suggesting that there might be an opportunity to incorporate initial questions into future national government surveys.

She also discussed unintended consequences, such as illicit trade.

PM USA will be submitting its own perspective on menthol to the agency by March 23rd.

Jim Tozzi, Center for Regulatory Effectiveness. Tozzi suggested that some of the initiation/cessation studies being examined by TPSAC aren't compliant with the Data Quality Act. "There's been a storm of data on this proceeding," he said. "And if you look through the big storm, I see one tree standing. That tree has a sign coming down: 'Cannot base on science the ban of menthol.'"

Niger Innis, Congress of Racial Equality. Innis commented on the discussions that often center on the propensity for African-American people to smoke menthol. Expressing distaste for smoking himself, he added, "But I think it's exponentially more offensive to my sensibilities as a free man to suggest that we ought to criminalize a particular type of legal product because a particular community tends to like it."

TPSAC is slated to have its final meeting March 17-18, before presenting its findings and recommendations to the FDA by March 23.

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