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FDA panel says ban on menthol cigarettes would benefit public health Many menthol smokers will likely use a ban on menthol as an opportunity to quit and it will save their lives," Cheryl G. But in a political compromise, it specified a separate review for menthol. In 10 meetings stretching back a year, the panel weighed the public health effect of menthol cigarettes, evaluating how they've been marketed, their appeal to youth, physiological effects and other factors. In draft chapters of a final report due Wednesday, the panel said the scientific evidence showed that menthol has cooling and numbing effects that reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and that could make it easier for young people to start smoking and harder for them to quit. The committee also said menthol was likely to make low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes more satisfying, and that smokers "who switch to low-yield cigarettes for health concerns may be more likely to continue to smoke rather than quit." Tobacco companies also warned that a menthol ban would lead to a large black market, loss of tax revenue and make it easier for underage kids to smoke. The 12-member advisory committee acknowledged that development of a black market was a possibility, but left it to the FDA to determine the seriousness of the threat. Tobacco firms also contended that there's no difference in damage to health between mentholated and unflavored cigarettes. The panel in large measure concurred, finding that "the evidence is insufficient to conclude that smokers of menthol cigarettes face a different risk of tobacco-caused diseases than smokers of non-menthol cigarettes." That finding is key, because in the view of industry analysts, it increases the possibility that the FDA will try to deal with menthol through limits on marketing rather than through an outright ban. It also helped explain the surge in shares of Lorillard Inc. following the advisory panel announcement. Lorillard gets about 90% of its revenue from a single menthol brand, Newport, and has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign against menthol restrictions and sued FDA to prevent it from using the panel's findings. But shares of Lorillard, which closed at $78.78 on Thursday, were trading in the $85 range hours after the FDA panel decision. Two larger cigarette makers, Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., have significant, but much smaller, stakes in menthol brands. Their shares also were up on Friday, though much more modestly than Lorillard's.

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