“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.
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.