Blumenthal Pushes for Removal of Menthol Tobacco Products

(Hartford, CT) –Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote the Food and Drug Administration today expressing support for their continued work to protect public health through the “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace.”
 
Blumenthal encouraged the FDA to continue work to follow up on recommendations from a report from the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) regarding menthol cigarettes.

“Such findings about the dangers of menthol tobacco products in general, and to our youth in particular, are highly concerning, and provide abundant grounds for FDA to develop a plan that will result in the removal of menthol from tobacco products to protect public health,” Blumenthal states in the letter. “It is well documented that the restriction of access to tobacco products directly impacts youth smoking rates and that FDA should take strong action to prevent tobacco companies from using menthol cigarettes to increase the number of youth who smoke.” 

The TPSAC Committee found evidence that tobacco companies often include menthol flavors in their products both to entice certain demographics – such as young children and teens – to use tobacco, and to make it harder for them to quit.

Blumenthal has a long record of fighting to protect public health as Attorney General, and helped lead the legal fight against big tobacco culminating in an historic settlement in 1998 which included restrictions on direct tobacco advertising to children, resulting in a dramatic drop in youth smoking rates in Connecticut and around the country.
 
The text of the letter follows:

April 18, 2011

Margaret Hamburg, M.D.
Commissioner
United States Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Dear Dr. Hamburg:

                I want to express my strong support for the work of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) regarding menthol cigarettes. I urge FDA to act expeditiously to protect the public health of our nation, and implement the committee’s findings and conclusion that “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.” 

The TPSAC found clear and compelling evidence that menthol cigarettes have an adverse impact on public health in the United States.  By masking the harshness of smoking, menthol cigarettes increase experimentation among youth and heighten the number of youth who transition from experimenters to become regular smokers.

Such findings about the dangers of menthol tobacco products in general, and to our youth in particular, are highly concerning, and provide abundant grounds for FDA to develop a plan that will result in the removal of menthol from tobacco products to protect public health. It is well documented that the restriction of access to tobacco products directly impacts youth smoking rates and that FDA should take strong action to prevent tobacco companies from using menthol cigarettes to increase the number of youth who smoke. 

As Connecticut’s Attorney General, I helped to lead the legal fight against big tobacco that led to a historic settlement in 1998 which included restrictions on direct tobacco advertising to children, resulting in a dramatic drop in youth smoking rates in Connecticut and around the country.  I urge FDA to continue to build on these efforts, and act on the Committee’s findings regarding the dangers of menthol. 

With the 2009 enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, FDA finally gained the needed federal authority to regulate the manufacturing, sale and marketing of tobacco products, and I urge FDA to use its new authority to vigorously and aggressively address the unregulated use of menthol in cigarettes.

Thank you, in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or Rachel Pryor of my staff at (202) 224-2823.

Sincerely,

/s/

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator