The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed last Tuesday that menthol-flavored cigarettes pose greater damaging effects to public health, because they are more addictive than regular cigarettes.
The findings were published by the FDA, “menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with non-menthol cigarettes.” The study explains that menthol-flavored cigarettes are not more harmful than regular ones, in terms of toxicity, however, menthol´s freshness and anesthetic properties tend to reduce the unpleasant flavor of tobacco; as result, the number of young smokers increases. In the U.S., menthol-flavored cigarettes account for about a quarter of the total market.
Also, the FDA explained, “Menthol smokers show greater signs of nicotine dependence and are less likely to successfully quit smoking.”
Menthol-flavored cigarettes are consumed, mostly, by African Americans and teenagers. Nonetheless, the FDA didn´t proposed any specific restriction or ban on the subject for now.
The issue has been controversial for a while. In 2009, the FDA announced a new law, amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; the rule prohibited cigarettes from containing spice, fruit or candy flavors. The FSPTCA explained about the rule, that smoking is a cause of death in the U.S., taking 400, 000 lives each year; the rule was an attempt to prevent children and adolescents from starting to smoke, studies have shown that 17 year old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes. However, the law did not include menthol-flavored cigarettes. At the time, lawmakers did not see a potential cause of addiction such as the spice-fruit-candy flavored cigarettes.
Recently, the FDA gathered a group of doctors, scientists and public-health experts and concluded, in a 250-page report, that menthol-flavored cigarettes had the same harmful effects stating, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit the public health in the United States.” Moreover, the advisory panel suggested removing the menthol-flavored cigarettes from the market, due to its addictive effects on smokers.
The bigger menthol-flavored cigarettes company, Lorillard Inc, which makes popular Newport, explains that if the menthol-flavored cigarette is banned there will be consequences, “As a result, there also would be severe negative impacts on public health, including exposure of smokers to more harmful contraband cigarettes, increased access of youth tobacco, increased criminal activity, particularly in urban communities, reduced government revenues and loss of jobs.”
In addition, chief operating officer at Legacy, a tobacco research and public health advocacy organization explained to news agency Reuters, “this additional delay will simply prolong the disease and death caused by menthol cigarettes, with particularly adverse consequences for youth and African Americans who smoke menthol cigarettes at disproportionately higher rates.”
Although the FDA has not taken immediate actions about the new findings yet, Mitch Zeller, head of the FDA´s Center for Tobacco Products, explained to reporters that the agency is working on the menthol-flavored issue, “As a regulatory agency, we can only go as far as the regulatory science will take us. The bottom line is; we need more information.”
Some public health advocates said that banning menthol-flavored cigarettes might reduce the rate of illness, premature death and tobacco addiction. Tobacco Company Lorillard said, “American have a right to make a personal choice to use any legal product.”