FDA panel suggests banning menthol

An advisory panel at the Food and Drug Administration gave its suggestion last week to the agency that menthol in cigarettes should be banned.

The FDA has been wrangling with the menthol issue for over a year. About a year ago, after being given regulatory control over tobacco products, the FDA immediately banned candy flavouring for tobacco, because it was believed this made tobacco more appealing to teens.

Menthol is a bit tougher nut to crack, because menthol cigarettes and menthol chew have been around for decades and represent roughly 30 percent of the tobacco market. Hell, it was all my dad smoked. It’s a flavouring, just like orange or strawberry, but it’s also a big part of the cigarette market and in fact one relatively large tobacco company — Lollilard — gets most of its profits from menthol cigarettes (Newport is a Lollilard brand). For some reason, a much higher percentage of blacks smoke menthols than whites, and a lot of menthol cigarette advertising is directed at black smokers. If menthol is banned, I could see it putting Lollilard out of business. They the third biggest company of the Big Three — Altria (Phillip Morris), RJ Reynolds being No.1 and No. 2 respectively.

Well, this panel came out and said it should be banned, because menthol, like candy-flavourings, has the effect of making cigarettes more appealing to teens and kids. Menthol itself does not increase the risk of lung cancer or other diseases caused by smoking. It just makes cigarettes more enticing to kids.

The FDA is supposed to make a final decision later this year.

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