Pull menthol cigarettes, FDA advisers urge
Post by: Saundra Young – CNN Medical Senior Producer
The availability of menthol-flavored cigarettes is linked to a rise in the number of children and African Americans who smoke and the cigarettes should be taken off the market, an FDA advisory committee said Friday.
The Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee met to evaluate the available science on the impact of menthol cigarettes on public health, including children, African-Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic and racial minorities. The group determined menthol cigarette smokers do not have a greater risk of diseases related to smoking when compared with non-menthol cigarette smokers. But, menthol in cigarettes increased experimentation, raised the risk of progression to a regular smoker, increased smoking among kids, and their availability increased the chance of addiction–and even the degree of addiction in children.
“The TPSAC also found that the public health impact of menthol cigarette availability is substantial,” said Dr. Jonathan Samet, chair of the advisory panel. “The availability of menthol cigarettes leads to an increase in the number of cigarette smokers and the burden of premature mortality.”
“The TPSAC’s recommendation of removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States is simply that – a committee recommendation based on its review of current, prevailing science on the topic of menthol as an ingredient in cigarettes,” said Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director, Center for Tobacco Products at the Food and Drug Administration. The report will be reviewed by experts at the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, who’ll also review all of the available science related to public health implications of menthol in cigarettes use.
According to Deyton, TPSAC’s final report must be submitted to the FDA by March 23. He says the agency will then do a thorough review and consider the risks and benefits to determine if regulatory action needs to be taken. The agency will provide its first progress report on the review of the science in approximately 90 days. In the meantime, he says, there will be no effect on the availability of menthol products.
Reynolds American, parent company of RJ Reynolds and maker of a number of menthol-flavored cigarettes including the very popular Kool, Camel and Pall Mall brands, says it plans to continue working with the FDA on this issue.
“The Agency now has input from the Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), tobacco manufacturers and industry representatives, and from the general public,” said Jeffery S. Gentry, executive vice president of operations and chief scientific officer for R.J. Reynolds. “As the director of the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA said in his remarks today, the TPSAC report does not set FDA policy and it does not set FDA actions. It is information that the Agency will take into consideration in its analysis.”
Gentry cautioned a number of issues still need more study, including the potential increase in cigarette smuggling and contraband if menthol cigarettes were no longer on the market.
Lorillard, the country’s third largest cigarette manufacturer and maker of Newport, the top selling menthol cigarette in the country said it is confident the FDA will conclude menthol cigaretters are no more dangerous than non-menthol cigarettes and should be regulated no differently. “While we fundamentally disagree, we are not surprised by what we believe is TPSAC’s unsubstantiated conclusion relative to the impact of menthol cigarettes on public health,” stated Murray S. Kessler, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lorillard. “Most importantly, TPSAC’s report is just the first step in what we believe will be a very long process that ultimately does not result in the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace, especially when contraband and other unintended consequences are seriously considered.”
But the recommendations were hailed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, who urged the FDA to implement the committee’s recommendations. In a joint statement they said: “The committee’s conclusions leave no doubt that menthol cigarettes have had a profound adverse impact on public health in the United States, resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use. It also leaves no doubt that the tobacco industry is directly responsible for the harm caused by menthol cigarettes because of its targeted marketing of children and African-American and other communities, and its manipulation of menthol cigarettes to appeal to specific target markets.”
That’s My White Mama 2
Vodpod videos no longer available.
(Artie Lange stars in this White Mama follow up sketch on Mad TV)
Prime example about the marketing towards minorities.
The Smoking Scourge Among Urban Blacks
By ERIK ECKHOLM
Published: October 20, 2007
BALTIMORE, Oct. 15 — Outside subway stops and bars in parts of this blighted city, slouching hustlers mutter “loosies, loosies” to passers-by, offering quick transactions, 50 cents a stick or three for a dollar.
Their illegal, if rarely prosecuted vocation: selling loose Newport cigarettes to those who do not have $4.50 to buy a pack.
In small corner markets, customers sometimes use code words like “bubble gum” or “napkins” to receive individual cigarettes wrapped in a napkin. Or they buy a flavored Black and Mild, the latest smoking craze here, from an opened five-pack.
Out-of-package sales are common in the poor areas of many cities, an adaptation to meager, erratic incomes and rising cigarette taxes. But researchers say they are just one facet of a high smoking rate among low-income urban blacks.
Even as antismoking campaigns have sharply reduced tobacco use in society at large, smoking has remained far more common among the poor of all races.
Still, officials here said they were surprised when a recent study suggested that more than half of poor, black young adults smoke cigarettes — almost always menthol, almost always Newports.
In the latest twist, the study also found that nearly one in four of them also smoke candy-flavored cigarillos, often inhaling despite the danger posed by higher tar and nicotine levels.
Alarmed by the findings, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, on Monday convened health experts, community leaders and high school students to discuss the spreading use of Black and Milds, plastic-tipped cigarillos that come in flavors like wine, cream and apple and are often seen in hip-hop videos and the HBO series “The Wire,” which is set in Baltimore.
Jamila Wilson, 17, said at the meeting that she had started smoking Black and Milds at 15 and now smoked several a day, inhaling.
“If you smoke the wine flavor, it gives you a buzz, ” Jamila said, adding that if she goes too long without, “I get light-headed.”
Amid violence and drug problems, smoking may seem a comparatively harmless vice. “But if you take a step back,” Dr. Sharfstein said, “it’s the smoking that will end up killing a lot of these kids, maybe not next week but well ahead of their time.”
In a stepped-up antismoking campaign, Baltimore officials are offering free nicotine patches or gum and are considering stronger measures to control sales of loosies, which are easily available to youngsters.
“The whole issue here is that the social norms haven’t changed the way they have in most of society,” said Frances Stillman of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, co-author of the study of smoking habits among Baltimore’s poor, which was published in August in the American Journal of Public Health. “Everybody smokes, and everybody thinks it’s O.K.”
In this latest study, researchers interviewed 160 blacks ages 18 to 24 who were enrolled in job training. In the group, 60 percent smoked cigarettes and 24 percent had recently smoked cigarillos.
A survey of 1,021 low-income blacks in Detroit, published in 2005 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that 59 percent of men and 41 percent of women smoked, a finding that “shocked everybody,” said the chief author, Jorge Delva of the University of Michigan School of Social Work.
It has long been known that smoking rates are higher among the poor and least educated of all races, but Mr. Delva and other experts said the rates recently found among inner city blacks were surprisingly high, possibly indicating that they were undercounted in broad standard surveys.
For a mix of cultural reasons as well as targeted marketing, menthol cigarettes are particularly favored by blacks: 75 percent of blacks nationwide smoke them, compared with less than 30 percent of whites.
In the 1960s, Kools dominated the market. But Newports, with a lower menthol level that many say feels smoother, and backed by marketing including the green “Newport Pleasure!” posters in nearly every deli and gas station here, have taken a strong lead in many cities.
“All my friends smoke, and they all smoke Newports,” said Collin Mazick, 24, a resident of northeast Baltimore who is studying to become a geriatric nursing assistant.
In recent years, the promotion budgets of major cigarette companies have been disproportionately devoted to menthols, said Gregory N. Connolly, director of tobacco control research at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It appears the industry is targeting the most vulnerable groups through advertising and manipulation of menthol levels,” Mr. Connolly said.
In an e-mailed response to questions, the Lorillard Tobacco Company, maker of Newports, said its marketing was directed at “all adult smokers,” although 51 percent of Newport buyers are blacks.
In Montebello, a tough section of northeast Baltimore, Newports are shared, sometimes for cash by people trying to recoup the cost of a pack.
“Everybody here smokes who can afford it,” said Eddie Johnson, 54, who broke a heroin addiction during a recent jail stay and is now training to be a drug counselor. Mr. Johnson said he smoked 10 to 20 cigarettes a day.
Scientists have not found that menthol cigarettes per se are more dangerous, but they say that menthol may make it easier to start smoking and harder to quit, and that it intensifies the effect of nicotine.
A resident of the Montebello alleys, Antonio Stokes, 39, who was vague about how he made money, agreed. Of the Newport he bummed off a friend the other evening, he said: “It’s worse than crack. They should have a detox center for these things, too.”