Two tobacco companies have sued US health regulators regarding the decision to be taken by the advisory panel on menthol cigarettes. The advisory panel may decide to ban these cigarettes. These two companies are Lorillard Inc. and Reynolds Tobacco Go unit that belongs to Reynolds American Inc. They have decided to sue the Food and Drug Administration or FDA.
The companies have charged against the biased nature of the advisory panel of the FDA. The advisory panel has made a report regarding the cigarettes that are flavored with menthol. The final report is expected on March 23 2020.
US annual cigarette revenue is more than $30 billion and menthol ones provide 30% of the revenue. This report has been provided by Euromonitor International. Lorillard has acquired top position in selling the menthol cigarette and the next one is R. J. Reynolds that sells the Kool brand along with the camel product having the taste of menthol.
FDA got the power of regulating tobacco products in the year 2009 and it banned many tobacco flavors like fruit, chocolate, etc. as it was making children addicted to cigarettes. The FDA has been asked by the administration to seek advice from the expert that does not belong to the panel and then take a decision of removal of menthol cigarettes from the market.
The companies have filed the case in the district court in the District of Columbia. The accusations against the panel include conflicts of interest and biases associated with it. Financial concerns are also included in the accusation.
The case says that the FDA has given funds to the advisors to perform research and also consult the companies that produce menthol cigarettes. The case has also accessed the members of the subcommittee by saying that these people acted as paid witnesses to provide proofs against the tobacco companies.
Health advocates are against the lawsuit saying that the companies do not want the recommendations given by the panel to come in public. The recommendations may reduce or put a hold on the market of menthol tobacco. According to Mathew Myers, who is the president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that the companies are giving importance to profits and not to the health and lives of the public.
Another company, which has not participated in the lawsuit is Phillip Unit of Altria Group Inc. This company sells Marlboro cigarettes having menthol. Along with the other two companies, this company has also spoken against the ban on menthol cigarettes.
Currently, there is no deadline for the ban but the FDA will hold a meeting in the month of March before issuing the report. Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee has also recommended that a ban should be done gradually as an outright ban can lead to smuggling of these cigarettes.
Lawrence Deyton is the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. He said that banning the menthol signal is not sure. FDA has to provide its report within 90 days and action will be taken accordingly. Dayton has also assured that after the issuance of the report, no immediate action will be taken against the availability of menthol cigarettes.