Greensboro, NC: Lorillard Inc. the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States, announced its response to the conclusions reached at last week's meeting of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC).
TPSAC is an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was charged with issuing a non-binding report and recommendations on the issue of menthol's impact on the public health by March 23, 2011.
In its meeting held on March 18, TPSAC members concluded that the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the U.S., despite the fact that they found there was no difference in disease risk between smokers of menthol cigarettes and smokers of non-menthol cigarettes.
TPSAC did acknowledge that the potential for an illegal market in menthol cigarettes exists and therefore noted that should FDA choose to take some policy action that restricts the availability of menthol cigarettes, that the FDA consult with the appropriate experts and carry out relevant analysis in this area.
"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."
In the meeting, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, Director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, stated that TPSAC's recommendation is simply advice and does not set FDA policy or action and that the FDA would conduct its own review. The advisory committee recommendation is not binding and the FDA is not obligated to take any regulatory action whatsoever.
The company believes that as the FDA conducts their own assessment of menthol, they will follow a rigorous scientific evaluation that will come to the same conclusion as the Industry Report on Menthol. The Industry Report clearly demonstrates that a menthol cigarette is no more dangerous than a non-menthol cigarette and should be regulated no differently and further, that the countervailing effects of any restriction in availability would overwhelm any potential public health benefit. The Industry Report will be formally submitted to the FDA by their deadline of March 23, 2011.