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FDA Urged To Ban Menthol Cigarettes

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Finding that the availability of menthol cigarettes increases the number of children and African Americans who smoke, the Food and Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee has concluded, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

The agency's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee stopped short of recommending an outright ban of menthol cigarettes. The FDA should consider other factors, the advisers said, including that a ban could increase counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes.

"The availability of menthol cigarettes has an adverse impact on public health by increasing the number of smokers with resulting premature death and avoidable mortalities," committee member Mark Clanton, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said in his summary of the report.

The committee based its recommendation on findings that menthol cigarettes increase the number of children who experiment with cigarettes and the number of children who become regular smokers, increasing overall youth smoking. It also concluded that the availability of menthol cigarettes reduces smoking cessation, especially among African Americans, and increases the overall prevalence of smoking among African Americans. It found that “menthol cigarettes are marketed disproportionately to younger smokers” and “disproportionately marketed per capita to African Americans.”

The committee’s conclusions leave no doubt that menthol cigarettes have had a profound adverse impact on public health in the United States, resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use. It also leaves no doubt that the tobacco industry is directly responsible for the harm caused by menthol cigarettes because of its targeted marketing of children and African American and other communities, and its manipulation of menthol cigarettes to appeal to specific target markets.

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