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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A senior official at Lorillard is urging members of the Food and Drug Administration to not lose sight of the congressional and FDA mandate "to follow the science" when working on its report on the use of menthol cigarettes. The report and recommendations by the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), which is non-binding, is due March 23.
According to a company release, William R. True, senior vice president of research and development for Lorillard, told the panel "to keep in mind that Congress's purpose of granting FDA with authority to regulate tobacco was to create order and supervision of the industry -- not create chaos the likes of which have not been seen since prohibition."
While "scientific proof of a disproportional impact of menthol on public health does not exist, countervailing effects like black markets and increased crime are real and proven," he added.
The congressional mandate to the FDA and the advisory committee was to consider the impact of the use of menthol in cigarettes on public health and to address countervailing effects of any recommendation, True said. Restriction on any market segment would have an impact on consumption, he added, but that is not what Congress asked the agency to do.
"You could impose restrictions on any taste preference segment in the market -- whether menthol, non-menthol, lower tar, higher tar, filter or unfiltered cigarettes -- and have some impact on quitting," he said. "But, that is a very different question than whether that same segment has a unique and disproportionate impact on public health.
"We believe the evidence clearly shows that there is no justification for increased regulation of menthol cigarettes," he added. True said the science is clear: "The overwhelming scientific and real world market data demonstrates that there is no difference in disease, initiation, cessation or dependence between menthol and non-menthol cigarettes."
Lorillard is the third biggest cigarette manufacturer in the country and its menthol-flavored premium brand Newport is the second largest selling cigarette in the United States.
Over the next five weeks, the FDA advisory committee will hold two meetings to discuss the future of menthol. The full TPSAC will meet March 1-2 and March 17-18. Its report to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services will consist of eight chapters, ranging from the way the panel approached evidence gathering and review to physiological effects of menthol to public health impact of menthol cigarettes, according to the FDA.