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A federal advisory panel said on Friday that removing menthol cigarettes from the market would promote public health in the United States. However, they stopped short of recommending to the Food and Drug Administration to take any specific action, such as restricting or totally banning the additive.
Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, a University of Southern California professor of medicine and the chairman of the advisory panel, said that the committee had found sufficient scientific basis supporting its finding about menthol cigarettes being more harmful than regular cigarettes.
The findings of the panel could pave the way for the F.D.A to try limiting, phasing out, or even banning the use of menthol in cigarettes.
The scientific evidence did not show any indication that individual menthol smokers inhaled greater amount of toxins or are exposed to bigger risk of disease compared to nonmenthol smokers.
However, it did highlight the impact on public health, determining that menthol cigarettes’ availability made smoking more appealing to youth and more attractive to African-Americans because the taste was less harsh.
The report of the panel also concluded that “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”
It was during the 1920s that menthol was added to cigarettes in order to make them less harsh.
Although Congress had already banned the use of candy, fruit, and spice flavoring in tobacco products, it has deferred tackling the complicated issue of menthol to the F.D.A. when it granted the agency broad authority in regulating tobacco products.