FDA advisers speak, menthol debate continues

    Advisers for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say a ban on menthol cigarettes could boost public health.

    The recommendation from the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee is just the beginning of a review of the evidence for, and against, the mint-scented cigarettes.

    “All of this–including the TPSAC report–does not set FDA policy and it does not set FDA actions. It’s merely information that the agency will take into consideration as it begin it’s analysis of the matter,” said David Howard, spokesman for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

    The North Carolina company makes the Kool and Salem brands. Howard said there is no evidence that menthol cigarettes are a greater health risk for smokers.

    Tobacco-control advocates say cigarette makers may be narrowly focused on disease risk, but the FDA will consider much more. University of California, San Francisco researcher, Valerie Yerger says the FDA advisers found ample evidence that the flavor additive negatively affects public health.

    “They’ve been able to show that menthol causes young folks to start smoking, and keeps people smoking, makes it more difficult for people to quit,” Yerger said.

    Menthol cigarettes have been heavily marketed in urban areas and are very popular among African American smokers. That preference has fueled a debate about how a ban would affect black Americans.

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