January 12, 2011 - Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) Meeting January 10-11, 2011.
Major tobacco makers urged a federal advisory panel (TPSAC (Tobacco Products Scientific Advsory Committee) against banning menthol cigarettes, arguing such a ban would likely create an unregulated black market.
Menthol cigarettes account for about 30% of total cigarette sales in the United States. The issue is of major importance to Lorillard Inc., the maker of the leading menthol brand, Newport. The product accounts for roughly 90% of Lorillard's sales.
Lorillard funded a study that was conducted by Compass Lexecon, a Chicago-based economic consulting firm and was presented to Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) tobacco products scientific advisory committee Monday, according to a report from Dow Jones Newswires. The report concluded that a "sizable black market" would quickly emerge if menthol cigarettes were banned. Banning Menthol Cigarettes Would Create a Multi-Billion Dollar Black Market, Economic Study Concludes; Study: Large Black Market Would Quickly Emerge if Menthol Cigarettes Banned..
Lorillard - essentially a one-product company - Newport cigarettes.. Lorillard cannot do what some competitors have done and focus on overseas for growth. In 1977 Lorillard sold the rights for international sales of its cigarette brands to British American Tobacco (BAT). (TobaccoWatch.org)
Jonathan Samet, chairman of the tobacco products scientific advisory committee, said there would likely be some mention of the "possibility" that a black market for menthol products would be created in the menthol report.
Representatives from Lorillard and RJ Reynolds, part of Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), who spoke at the meeting, said there's no reason to regulate menthol cigarettes differently than regular cigarettes, Dow Jones reported. They also argued that banning menthol is unlikely to bring down current smoking rates.
Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris USA, said in written comments provided to the committee that it's "difficult to predict with absolute certainty what consumers would do if menthol cigarettes were banned" but said a menthol ban "is likely to significantly increase the total demand for illicit cigarettes." The company said it was possible that some people would quit smoking, but others would likely smoke a non-menthol brand or obtain menthol cigarettes from "unregulated sources or make their own menthol cigarettes."
New federal survey data presented by the National Cancer Institute at the panel meeting showed about 40% of current menthol smokers said they would quit if menthol cigarettes were banned, although it isn't clear if those who said they would quit would be successful at doing so.
The Food and Drug Administration was given the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009. As part of the tobacco law, all tobacco flavorings except for menthol were banned on concerns the flavors enticed children and adolescents to start smoking. (President Obama signs bill for FDA to regulate tobacco..)
The FDA is currently considering what, if anything, to do about menthol and has charged its tobacco products scientific advisory committee with writing a report about the public health impact of menthol. The panel report is due in March.
The panel could recommend an outright ban of menthol or marketing restrictions. The FDA isn't required to follow its panel's decision, although the agency traditionally follows the advice of its outside advisory panels.
Reference: A 'Sizable Black Market' Tobacco companies argue against menthol cigarette ban at FDA hearing, CSP Daily News, 1/12/2011.