FDA Taking Comments on Menthol Cigarettes

Its advance notice of proposed rulemaking is accompanied by a non-regulatory document, an independently produced "Preliminary Scientific Evaluation of the Possible Public Health Effects of Menthol Versus Nonmenthol Cigarettes."

The Food and Drug Administration published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking July 24 seeking comments from interested parties, saying it may issue regulations affecting the marketing of menthol in cigarettes. The agency also posted its preliminary scientific evaluation of public health issues related to the use of menthol, and this non-regulatory document suggests the agency will indeed take action. It says the evidence indicates women, young people, and African-Americans are more prone to smoke menthol cigarettes, and it is harder for people smoking them to quit.

FDA is taking comments for the next 60 days. You can submit one by visiting www.regulations.gov and searching for Docket No. FDA-2013-N-0521.

"Menthol cigarettes raise critical public health questions," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. "The FDA is committed to a science-based approach that addresses the public health issues raised by menthol cigarettes, and public input will help us make more informed decisions about how best to tackle this important issue moving forward."

FDA announced it is funding three menthol-related studies. One will evaluate whether genetic differences in taste perceptions explain why certain racial and ethnic populations are more likely to use menthol cigarettes; the second will compare exposure to smoke-related toxins and carcinogens from menthol and nonmenthol cigarettes; and the third will study the effects of menthol and nonmenthol compounds in various tobacco products on both tobacco addiction and toxicants of tobacco smoke.

About one-fourth of all cigarettes sold in the United States are menthol, according to the scientific evaluation. FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee on July 21, 2011, recommended that the agency remove menthol cigarettes from the marketplace in order to benefit public health.

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