FDA to conduct independent review of research of menthol cigarettes and how they impact public health, meant to ensure 'best available science is used to support regulatory and programmatic decision making,' FDA spokesman says

RICHMOND, Virginia , June 27, 2011 () – The Food and Drug Administration is conducting an independent review of research on the public health impact of menthol cigarettes __ which are mint flavored and one of the few growth sectors of the shrinking cigarette business.

The federal agency said Monday members of its Center for Tobacco Products will gather menthol studies and then submit its review to an external peer review panel next month. The process is expected to be completed in the fall of 2011. The results of the review will be available for public comment.

FDA spokesman Jeff Ventura said the review is meant to ensure that the "best available science is used to support regulatory and programmatic decision making."

The review comes after the FDA in March received a report from the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee on the minty smokes. Panels like the tobacco committee advise the FDA on scientific issues. The agency doesn't have to follow its recommendations, but often does.

The report, which was mandated under the 2009 law giving the agency the authority to regulate tobacco, said removing menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit public health because the flavoring has led to an increase in smokers__ particularly among teens, African Americans, and those with low incomes. It also said that they make it harder for them to quit. The report, however, said menthol smokers are not likely to be at a higher risk of disease or exposed to a greater number of toxins.

The report concluded that more research is needed and the federal agency should develop a program to monitor marketing of menthol cigarettes. It also suggested that should the FDA choose to recommend a ban or other restrictions, the agency should study the potential for contraband menthol cigarettes, a concern raised by the tobacco industry and other trade groups.

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