AWMA CEO Testifies At FDA TPSAC Meeting

“If  menthol  cigarettes  have  the  same  health  effects  as  non‐menthol  cigarettes,  how  can  the  federal  government  justify  a  ban  of  menthol  cigarettes?” questions AWMA CEO.

AWMA President and CEO Scott Ramminger testified before the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) on March 17, as the Committee decides whether or not to recommend a ban on menthol.cigarettes

Ramminger was invited to speak at 3 p.m. before the Committee at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) White Oak Conference Center in Silver Spring, Md., and his remarks are being considered, along with other statements, as part of the TPSAC study.

Ramminger expressed “serious concern that a ban on menthol cigarettes would be ineffective and create a significant contraband market with ill-effects for our members and others.” In his testimony Ramminger also stated that the Committee should be looking to proven science with solid data when making their recommendation.

Ramminger told the Committee that AWMA has studied cigarette sales and contraband markets for years, and if menthol were banned, a currently legal product would be replaced by a contraband market. “An  expanded  black  market  would have  many  adverse  effects.   It  not  only  reduces  the  government’s  revenue,  but  will  also  open  the  door  for  easy and  unmonitored  accessibility  by  youth,” he said.  “Organized  criminal  groups  will  be  in  the  driver’s  seat,  and black  marketers  will  pocket  billions  of  dollars  in  profit.  If  contraband  cigarettes  are  sold  at  lower  prices  –  a distinct  possibility  given  historical  examples —it  is  likely  that  banning  menthol  will  do  little  to  diminish  overall smoking.   It  is  possible  to  imagine  a  scenario  where  cheaper  cigarettes  could  increase  tobacco  use  among  youths.  And,  of  course,  all  of  these  ramifications  would  directly  affect  jobs  and  the  livelihoods  of  our  members.”

Ramminger also noted AWMA’s  members   have  grave  concerns  whenever  government  agencies  justify  a  regulatory  action  on  “tenuous  links  or  preconceived  notions  involving  a  product  and  a  purported  effect.”  He added, “On  menthol,  we  take  note  that  one  of  your  draft  reports  said,  and  I  quote,  ‘the  evidence  is  insufficient  to  conclude  that  smokers  of  menthol  cigarettes  face  a  different  risk  of  tobacco‐caused  diseases  than  smokers  of  non‐menthol  cigarettes.’   To  our  analysis,  this  appears  to  be  a  controlling  conclusion.  If  menthol  cigarettes  have  the  same  health  effects  as  non‐menthol  cigarettes,  how  can  the  federal  government  justify  a  ban  of  menthol  cigarettes?”

The entire meeting, including Ramminger’s remarks, will be videotaped, and according to the FDA, a link to the hearing will be available within a couple of weeks at the FDA Web site  http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/default.htm.

A final report from FDA’s TPSAC with recommendations on menthol is scheduled to be issued next week, March 23, 2011.

AWMA has also sent a letter to the agency urging the FDA not to consider any ban on menthol cigarettes. In the letter to FDA, AWMA notes that any action to ban this product would likely result in a significant increase in the contraband market and such action would make no sense in the face of solid scientific studies showing that menthol cigarettes have no different health effects than non-menthol.

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