Menthol Cigarettes Health Risk: FDA Considering New Regulations On Minty Smokes

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 23, 2013 3:43 PM EDT

menthol cigarettes
Menthol cigarettes may pose a greater public health risk than regular smokes, the FDA said on Tuesday. The agency will consider proposing new regulations on minty cigarettes. (Photo: Flickr: stephanemartin)

Menthol cigarettes appear to pose a greater public health risk than regular cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration said in a review released today. The FDA announcement may be the first step towards new regulations for the minty cigarettes.   

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While the FDA did not find evidence that menthol cigarettes are any more toxic than regular cigarettes or carry higher a higher disease risk, younger people are more likely to initiate smoking with the mint-flavored cigarettes. According to the FDA, 30 percent of all adult smokers and over 40 percent of youth smokers have used menthol cigarettes.

The FDA also said that the cooling properties of menthol can make cigarettes seem less harsh than regular cigarettes, and that menthol smokers have a harder time quitting.

"Menthol cigarettes raise critical public health questions," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. "The FDA is committed to a science-based approach that addresses the public health issues raised by menthol cigarettes, and public input will help us make more informed decisions about how best to tackle this important issue moving forward."

The FDA didn't recommend any new restrictions be placed on menthol cigarettes. They are now seeking input from the general public, health officials and the tobacco industry itself to see if new restrictions should be put into place. The public comment period lasts for 60 days.  

Mitchell Zeller, the head of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said during a conference call that the FDA is a regulatory agency, and can "only go as far as the regulatory science will take us." Zeller added, "The bottom line is, we need more information. We also need input from the public."

While cigarette use has been on the decline in the United States, sales of menthol cigarettes have grown. In 2008, menthol cigarette smokers accounted for 33.9 percent of all smokers, a number which grew two 37.5 percent in 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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