The issue around menthol cigarettes

Published on April 12th, 2011 10:30

A Food and Drug Administration Committee claims adolescents who smoke menthol cigarettes are more likely to develop addiction, yet it failed to recommend a ban on menthol flavoring.

Menthol-flavored cigarettes have a virtually cooling taste. Menthol masks the harshness of tobacco, and is growing in popularity among young people, especially African Americans. So, some health advocates state it’s time to prohibit them.

Last week, a scientific advisory committee for the FDA issued a 231-page report concerning the impact of menthol cigarettes on the public health upon examining scientific evidence and opinion of health experts and tobacco companies. The panel decided that menthol smoking is much more addictive and appealing for adolescents. Below you will find details of how mentholated cigarettes differ from regular-flavored ones and why health groups seek to get them banned.

menthol flavour

What is menthol?

Menthol is an aromatic agent of natural origin, though it is frequently synthesized artificially, which provides cooling, soothing and pain-alleviating effect. Menthol is a common component in many products, like gums, and even throat lozenges.

Whereas the majority of cigarettes contain certain amounts of menthol, the FDA is focused on the products that are advertised as menthol cigarettes, like Newport, Salem, and other brands.

Why wasn’t menthol banned along with other flavors in 2009?

Under the Tobacco Control Act, signed into law in 2009, the FDA was granted with authority to regulate tobacco industry. The agency outlawed cigarette flavorings, later that year, stating they are appealing to minors. Although menthol flavoring was not covered by the ban, the law required the FDA to establish a committee to examine scientific evidence on the impact of menthol cigarettes.

Health experts agree in opinion that the Food and Drug Administration made a wise decision, when avoided banning menthol flavoring at the same time with other cigarette flavorings, because menthol represents one-third of the market and tobacco companies are doing their best to protect it, so, the agency had to build up evidence base.

Do menthol cigarettes represent more health risks than non-menthol cigarettes?

The advisory committee examined two ways that mentholated cigarettes present a higher risk for public health, but found scientific evidence to prove only one of them. First, the panel investigated whether menthol makes cigarettes more harmful by providing higher amounts of nicotine in the smoke, or triggering health complications. However, they didn’t find sufficient reliable evidence to prove that.

Then, the panel examined whether menthol cigarettes could contribute to increased number of cigarettes smoked. The committee found evidence to support this claim, especially in adolescent smokers. The evidence demonstrated that smoking menthol cigarettes, a teen trying smoking is more likely to become a regular smoker.

So what’s the bottom line? Will mentholated cigarettes be prohibited?

It is still not clear. Despite the advisory committee said that prohibiting menthol cigarettes would have a positive impact on public, it did not recommend doing that. The agency has yet to study the report and could introduce measures to restrict mentholated cigarettes, as it has no deadline for final decision.

By Kevin Lawson, Staff Writer. Copyright © 2011 All rights reserved.

Related tags: menthol | cigarettes | fda | tobacco industry | tobacco regulation

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