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FDA Mulls Ban on Newports, Menthol Cigarettes

(Potential menthol cigarette ban report updated with response from Altria Group (MO).)
GREENSBORO, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- Lorillard (LO), Reynolds American (RAI) and Altria Group (MO) have been on the rise in recent sessions after a Food and Drug Administration panel did not specifically suggest the agency should ban menthol cigarettes.

The Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, the FDA panel, did say on March 18 that the removal of menthol cigarettes from the American cigarette market would improve the overall health of the nation, but did not go as far as to suggest a complete ban of the flavored smokes. "The availability of menthol cigarettes has adverse impact on public health by increasing the numbers of smokers," the panel said, adding that it "has no specific suggestions" on how to proceed based on its assertions.

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act stipulated that tobacco makers could not add candy-like flavors such as cloves and vanilla to their products, but left the menthol debate up to the FDA.

An "undue emphasis on reduction of menthol relative to other cigarettes may distract from the ultimate health-prevention message that smoking of any cigarettes is injurious to health," the panel said.

A report from the panel is expected to be delivered to the FDA any day now, though the FDA has no deadline to make a decision about a ban on menthols.

Altria Client Services on behalf of Philip Morris USA sent a written report to the FDA summarizing its response to the panel's findings.

The Philip Morris report found that its "review of the science- and evidence-based information demonstrates that regulatory actions or restrictions related to the use of menthol in cigarettes are neither necessary nor justified."

"Significant restrictions, like eliminating menthol in cigarettes, would not reduce the population harm caused by cigarette smoking, and would lead to severe and lasting unintended consequences detrimental to public health objectives and society."

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