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Watchdog Warns of Public Health Harm if Menthol Cigarettes Banned
In a presentation to the FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness explained that illicitly manufactured contraband cigarettes pose additional health hazards over and above those of legitimate products and that contraband menthol cigarettes would replace legal ones if menthol were banned.

Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control, CRE noted that smoke from counterfeit cigarettes has been found to contain at least double the cadmium and as much as 14 times the lead as legal cigarettes.

CRE also explained that researchers at the New York State Department of Health found that levels of lead and cadmium, as well as mercury, arsenic and other metals "were significantly higher in counterfeit cigarette samples...."

CRE's analysis included conclusions by the U.K. government, based on CDC research, that counterfeit cigarettes had "160 per cent more tar; 80 per cent more nicotine; and 133 per cent more carbon monoxide than their genuine counterparts." Also cited was an Australian study which concluded that smokers of "illicit tobacco report significantly worse mental and physical health than smokers of licit tobacco."

There is a virtually unlimited capacity for production of contraband cigarettes. CRE cited a study in the British Journal of Criminology which estimated that China alone produces more counterfeit cigarettes every year than are legally manufactured in the US. North Korea is also a major manufacturer of counterfeit cigarettes. The British government has set a target of stopping only 20% of contraband tobacco shipments into the country.

The contraband paper noted that Federal law enforcement agencies have warned that the organizations which traffic in contraband cigarettes include terrorist groups and narcotics traffickers.

CRE explained that an increase in menthol contraband cigarette consumption would disproportionately harm underage smokers, because contraband vendors don't check age, and African American smokers who predominately consume menthol cigarettes. Underage smokers would also likely become more involved in the sale as well as purchase of contraband cigarettes.

CRE's report provides extensive information about the contraband cigarette market and projects that, if the FDA were to ban menthol, there would be a substantial increase in the sale of contraband menthol cigarettes. The analysis concludes that a menthol ban would harm underage smokers, adult smokers and non-smokers.

See An Inquiry into the Nature, Causes and Impacts of Contraband Cigarettes

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