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Monday, February 28, 2011

FDA Tobacco Advisory Committee Menthol Subcommittee Report Due This Week

Past posts on CPDD Blog have focused on US government regulation and/or planned banning of abused substances including synthetic stimulants known as “Bath Salts”, synthetic marijuana products, and caffeinated alcoholic beverages.  This week, the focus turns to governmental regulation of tobacco products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has sparked a legal battle between tobacco companies and the FDA.

In 2009, the FDA formed a Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) to evaluate product safety and health issues related to tobacco products.  The Committee Roster includes CPDD members Dorothy Hatsukami and Jack Henningfield, international experts on tobacco abuse, dependence, and treatment.

On March 2, the Committee will hold the first of two March meetings in which it will review evidence presented by the Menthol Report Subcommittee and prepare to make recommendations on the use of menthol in tobacco products.  The meeting this week will be webcast with connection details available here just prior to the meeting.

Recent scientific reports suggest that menthol, by altering the sensory perception of smoking, increases the likelihood that young smokers will become addicted and that smokers trying to quit will remain addicted.  Other research suggests that the tobacco industry knowingly uses menthol to maintain smoking behavior in new smokers and in smokers trying to quit.

Last week, the New York Times reported that two major tobacco companies, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds, jointly sued the FDA to block receipt of or FDA action upon TPSAC recommendations.  The companies assert that three TPSAC members (Chair Jonathan Samet, Neal Benowitz, and Jack Henningfield) have "conflicts of interest and bias" because of their past consultant work as expert witnesses in legal matters and/or as advisors on smoking cessation product development.

The March TPSAC meetings and any court actions that arise should be very interesting to people on both sides of the fence with regard to use of menthol in tobacco products.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

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