FDA Advisory Committee Concludes Removal of Menthol Cigarettes Would Benefit Public Health

Statement of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Washington, D.C. (March 18, 2011)

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 today concluded, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

We strongly support the committee’s findings and conclusions, which are based on an exhaustive review of the scientific evidence regarding the public health impact of menthol cigarettes. We urge the FDA to implement the committee’s recommendation in a way that maximizes the public health benefits.

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.

We applaud and thank the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee for its thorough review of the scientific evidence regarding menthol cigarettes and its carefully considered and science-based recommendation. The committee has done exactly what Congress directed when it enacted the 2009 law granting the FDA authority over tobacco products. Now the FDA must act expeditiously and implement the committee’s recommendation.