Menthol and the FDA

 

Recently, the FDA released their report on Menthol which determined that menthol has been used to target youth, women, and African Americans and that it is linked to increased dependence on cigarettes. Although this is not news to the tobacco control movement, the report represents a significant shift in how we address menthol in this country.

According to a study produced by TRDRP “In high school neighborhoods, targeted advertising exposes Blacks to more promotions and lower prices for the leading brand of menthol cigarettes.” Menthol has been used to target youth and the African American population. According to the new report from the FDA “…the standard marketing mix approach of price, promotion, product and place has been used to drive menthol cigarette preference among the urban African American community.” The tobacco industry prices menthol lower in urban African American communities to make it more enticing. The cool sensation from the menthol has been shown to decrease the typically unsavory parts of smoking, making it both easier to try and easier to turn into a habit.

While the research has pointed to a need to regulate menthol in cigarettes for several years, it was a disappointment to many in the tobacco control movement when menthol was not included in the flavor ban passed as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, approved and signed into law in 2009. This law gave the FDA authority over tobacco products and explicitly banned all flavored cigarettes except for menthol. Although menthol was left out, a study was required that would examine the public health effects of menthol. The Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee released its report on Menthol in 2011, recommending that menthol be removed from the marketplace. The recommendation spurred the FDA to embark on another round of research to determine the public health consequences of menthol.

Tobacco control advocates encouraged the FDA to act, but years went by before they finally issued their report, just a few weeks ago. The report released July 23, 2013 determines that steps must be taken. Although this is great news, there is once again going to be a waiting period, which could last as long as 2 years before any rules around menthol take effect. Groups like the national office of the American Lung Association are calling for menthol cigarettes to be removed from the marketplace in a statement released on the issue. For more information on menthol and the FDA visit this page: http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/ResourcesforYou/ucm361951.htm

-Lindsey Freitas

 

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