FDA Study Finds Lower Risk of Lung Cancer Among Menthol Smokers

Marla Scarola –Weinberg Group

In March 2011, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee released a report on the impact of menthol on public health.  Based on the committee’s review of all available evidence, they recommended the ban of menthol.  Following the release of TPSAC’s report, the FDA began a thorough review of their findings and also considered a report on the issue prepared by the tobacco industry.  Stakeholders continue to await the FDA’s final determination and it is unclear when this information will be available.

In the report, TPSAC concluded that the evidence is insufficient to conclude that smokers of menthol cigarettes face a different risk of tobacco‐caused diseases than smokers of non‐menthol cigarettes, but did note that epidemiologic data do not demonstrate increased disease risk in people.  Adding to this body of evidence is a study recently released by a scientist from FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. The study used 20 years of data from the large nationally representative household health survey, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).  Included in the analysis were 6,074 smokers, including 1,417 who smoked only menthol cigarettes.  Not only did the author report no difference in lung cancer mortality or all cause mortality between all menthol smokers and nonmenthol smokers, menthol smokers at ages 50 and over had a lower risk of lung cancer mortality compared with nonmenthol smokers.

This latest FDA study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests modest to statistically significant reduced risks for lung cancer among menthol smokers.  In the face of a potentially lower risk of lung cancer associated with menthol cigarettes, it will be even more difficult for the FDA to ban them from the market.

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