The panel was tasked with determining how menthol cigarettes should be regulated and whether the science justifies an outright ban.
"We think there are two key scientific underpinnings [to the argument for a ban]," said Vargyas, from the American Legacy Foundation. "One is the link between menthol smoking and youth initiation. The science shows the younger and the newer the smoker, the more likely they are to smoke menthols. The second very important reason is the science shows they make more quit attempts than non-menthol smokers, but they are less successful at quitting."
The efforts to more stringently regulate tobacco products come as a the result of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law by President Obama in June 2009. The law gave the FDA broad new powers to regulate the sale, marketing and content of tobacco products and directed the FDA to establish an advisory committee to review the science and make recommendations.
The law banned fruit and candy-like flavorings from cigarettes, but exempted menthol, by far the most popular flavor. Menthol accounts for 27 percent of all cigarettes sold in the United States in 2009, according to the FDA's report.
Instead, menthol became the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee's (TPSAC) first order of business.
On Feb. 25, Lorillard Inc., the Greensboro, N.C-based maker of Newports, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., based in Winston-Salem, N.C. and the makers of Camel and Winston, sued the FDA and asked the court to prevent the agency from considering recommendations from the advisory committee. The tobacco companies contend that several members of the committee have a conflict of interest.
And that's almost certainly not the last of the lawsuits from the tobacco companies, Vargyas noted.
The FDA will now begin t
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