Goodbye to menthol cigarettes?

An FDA panel recommends pulling the flavored smokes from store shelves, but analysts are skeptical that the agency will follow through.

By Kim Peterson Mar 18, 2011 12:30PM
Image: Man smoking (© Steve Mason/Photodisc Blue/Getty Images)A panel at the Food and Drug Administration has recommended removing menthol cigarettes from the U.S., saying the public would be healthier as a result.

The FDA doesn't have to follow its panel's recommendations, but it often does. So there's a good chance that menthol cigarettes, which make up nearly a third of all U.S. cigarette sales, will disappear from store shelves. If it happens, the FDA said, it will be years from now, according to Dow Jones.

What's so wrong with menthol cigarettes? They're the preferred choice for adolescents, and the panel worries that menthols are a gateway to youths becoming regular smokers, according to Dow Jones.

The recommendation would dramatically affect Lorillard (LO), which makes the menthol-flavored Newport line. Newports make up about 90% of Lorillard's sales. Altria (MO) and Reynolds American (RAI) also sell menthols, but their sales are more evenly distributed across non-menthols and other products.

Post continues after video:
So why did Lorillard shares rise so dramatically Friday? In midday trading, the stock was up nearly 9% to $85.66. It seems the industry -- and some analysts who cover it -- is skeptical that the FDA will go through with any ban. Altria shares were up 1%, and Reynolds American rose more than 2%.

Even if a ban did happen, the cigarette industry could survive it, said analysts from Moody's Investors Service. The analysts estimate that a ban would cut into cigarette sales by about 8% to 10% the first year but that sales would eventually get back to the normal annual drops of 3% to 4%.

The cigarette industry is profitable and could take the revenue hit, a Moody's analyst said, according to Dow Jones.

Even the chairman of the panel that made the FDA recommendation expressed concern that a ban could push menthols into the black market. The FDA "would need to consider the potential for contraband under those scenarios," said the chairman, a professor at a University of California medical school, according to Bloomberg. "There may be strategies other than a full removal."

Cigarette companies aren't taking this news lying down. Lorillard and Reynolds have sued the FDA to essentially block the panel's recommendations, Bloomberg reported. The companies claim that three of the eight panelists have conflicts of interest, having served as paid witnesses in prior tobacco lawsuits.

26Comments
Mar 18, 2011 3:52PM
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You have got to be kidding me!  Like we don't have bigger problems in this country than menthol cigarettes.  So what about flavored vodka?  Will we have to give up our fruit flavored vodkas and stick with unflavored because kids might like the fruity flavors better?  I guess our government can't figure out how to solve the real problems so they have to waste our money on stupid crap like this!  I love America, but my government is really embarrassing me more and more.
Mar 18, 2011 3:38PM
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Wow - once again big brother trying to tell people what they can and can't do - I for one am sick and tired of the government telling me what I should be doing - last time I checked if you were over 21 you got to make these types of decisions for yourself!
Mar 18, 2011 3:51PM
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I'm a menthol smoker and I think this is ****. OBVIOUSLY I know smoking is bad for me. So are a million other things. If I choose to smoke a cigarette I have every right to smoke a menthol instead of a regular one. Why don't they stop selling butter and salt while they're at it...

Mar 18, 2011 3:37PM
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Here's an EVEN BETTER IDEA! 
Remove all fast food from the U.S. and have an even healthier public!

It's a smoker's choice if they want to have menthols or not. If they want nicotine bad enough they will just smoke regulars. 
Mar 18, 2011 3:38PM
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Oh please big brother lead me to purity.Take me in to the light. Show me how to live. I am lost without your wisdom and guidance.
Mar 18, 2011 3:49PM
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Here the feds go trying to be my parents again. Everytime they get one of these types of laws passed it emboldens them to continue to step all over the Constitution and take away my rights as an individual which is what the Constitution is based on. Isn't the government supposed to protect the Constitution of the United States. Maybe they should all be arrested and convicted of treason. 

Mar 18, 2011 3:37PM
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How about we let people do what they want.

Mar 18, 2011 5:32PM
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While we are at banning menthol cigarettes; we might as well ban:  Fast food (obesity), Alcohol (Alcoholism), Automobiles (traffic deaths), Cell Phones (UHF Radiation), Microwaves (More radiation), Soft Drinks (Obesity), Diet soft drinks (phenylalanine may cause cancer or alzheimer's), The internet (cyber bulling makes kids cry and kill themselves), Hot dogs and Bologna (because no one really knows what is in it), All Meat Products (because they can raise cholesterol), Prescription medication (people get addicted to painkillers), Cough syrup and baby formula (people use it to make meth), Production and power plants (they pollute), Tylenol (can cause irreversible liver damage), Household cleaners (they contain poisons), Guns (because liberals think they are bad), Steak knives...hammers...baseball bats...people wearing gloves  (because they kill too). 

 

Then we could require everybody to apply government mandated sun block SPF 120 (we could make it green so that you can easily tell who is in violation), because the sun causes cancer and now the government (i.e. the U.S Tax Payer) has to pay for healthcare.  But, we must not ban abortion;  because it does not end life (for those who believe otherwise you must not know what the definition of life truly is...when you were taught that life was defined as metabolism and cell reproduction, you were lied to...just ask a liberal).

 

And, everybody could be appointed their own personal government approved administrator.  This position would ensure that none of us ever made another wrong decision again.  After all, isn't it obvious that the government knows better than you or I. 

 

IN THE END HE REALIZED THAT HE TRULY LOVED BIG BROTHER.

Mar 18, 2011 4:03PM
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Really?!  You people must be crazy.  Try concerning yourself into something a little more important.  First of all if they smoke they already have an issue.  Try staying out of the public's business and get busy doing what your suppose to be doing.   If our tax money goes to stupid ridiculas tests like this no wonder this country is broke.  Try finding a cure for the gas crisis!  There is no gateway drug to drugs you idiots. 
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I'm a smoker.  I know it's bad but it's my life not the governments.  If cigarettes are so bad for you then why don't they just ban them all.  No--because they would miss out on all the money cigarettes generate for them.  Two- faced ridiculous people that work for the government and have all this time on their hands to come up with bull_____ like this.  Give me a freaken break will ya.  I have had it with the asinine ideas the government has.  What a waste of money.  How about finding better energy source or better yet more money for research of cancer.   

Mar 18, 2011 5:11PM
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If menthol cigarettes are banned, they (the big 3) will make up for lost revenue by raising the costs on regular cigarettes.  Our state taxes will continue to rise to make up for the loss.  I am a menthol smoker and know that i should quit, but I am well past the age of consent and feel that it is my choice as is whether I choose to drink alcohol (another high taxed product).  When will we get back our rights as citizens?  The FDA should look into the things that affect all citizens; tainted food products, medicine, etc.  We have no idea what goes into any of these and we have no choice but to consume them.  Of course we could not eat or take medicine.  Live and let live.....let me choose for myself!
Mar 18, 2011 4:44PM
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they wanna ban menthol ciggarettes, but they cant get a damn handle on the stuff we get from other parts of the world and all these other recalls for food contamination...not to mention all the carcinogens they allow companies to put in processed foods to keep them fresh, they allow red bull which im almost positive has got to have horrible long term use effects, just nodony knows about it yet. we know cigarettes are bad we smoke em anyway....do something productive!
Mar 18, 2011 5:32PM
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I agree about smoking.....but can we say  "Sclerosis"?  Nobody ever mentions the evils of alcoholism. I guess soft drinks served at a White house party just wouldn't be the same as a nice bubbly chardonnay!?  Just like Clinton made a cigar an acceptable smoking (or sex toy) choice in the Oval office. Come on People.....Morals sustain a strong america...immorality breeds deceit, adultery, teenage pregnancy, drug use, disintegration of family and home. Remember, what we accept in our hearts as true, we accept in our lives, and therefore in our experience. Therefore the "wrong" we see, and even do, should always be acknowledge for what it is.....wrong. And every time our government steps in to tell us what is acceptable or not (like we don't know the difference) is just one more step towards communism, and one less freedom we possess! I am an intelligent human being, as are most, and am capable of governing myself, and my home, correctly, without the government interference. Any moron who can't govern himself correctly is in the minority, and should not be made a statistic as the "norm" for all people! Laws should be enacted the enforce our human rights (for everyone)....like the right to owning a home, without one sided laws that protect the mortgage company's interests, but not the consumers! Health laws, also,  should include every citizens welfare...every american citizen should should have healthy teeth, regardless of what they eat, or how much they earn. 
After all, are we not all human, and dependent on the same things. I know my desire for security, health and success is based on the same morality as any other human being! In the old days, being a politician wasn't a paid positition.....any butcher or blacksmith could have held a political position....and somehow, I believe by not being paid, his integrity and honesty were somewhat less in error, and his directives more in line with what was truly right under the law!
Mar 18, 2011 6:05PM
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With more harmful drugs coming into America from other countries, the debt we are in and the wars we face I find it quite sickening that they are even worrying about this right now. There are MUCH bigger fish to fry! Our government officials are the biggest bunch of procrastinators I've even seen.  I am a smoker and menthols are my smoke of choice, so I say, when they put down
the credit card with an ever increasing limit and no payment plan I'll put down my smokes. The 
de-stressing I would feel from that alone might make quitting an option!lol
Mar 18, 2011 4:02PM
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Well, I have to say personally it wouldn't bother me to see this happen, because one, I don't smoke and two, I've seen first hand what smoking will do to you after a lifetime of doing it. However that doesn't exactly mean I'm right either; smoking tobacco has been part of our country's history and was part of what built our country, like it our not, and I think if someone wants to smoke it is their right, and the government should mind their business and worry about more pressing issues at hand. Let me be clear though, I do not support smoking, I support the right for person to choose. Granted I do favor some restrictions, public restaurants, certain public park areas, stadiums, ect. and smokers cleaning up after themselves! to name a few - basically what respects the clean air for those who don't smoke or wish to smell it. Now, If the gov did want to do anything, then I think they should make all the tobacco companies come clean and give a breakdown of everything found in cigarettes, anything they add, why they add it, ect. Make sure the companies are upfront with all the info about the cigarettes so people do have the information when making those choices, whether or not people use that info is another issue. Beyond that if I was to venture any further I would say just put in place a purity law or something and say only tobacco and papers no added chemicals (including extra nicotine). Make smoking similar to what it was product wise during the times of our country's founding. I think that would be a good balance, you can smoke, but the companies can't manipulate the product in ways to help keep you hooked. At the same time get mariju****galized and be done with it. Don't support smoking that either but I think the problems (trying to keep it illegal) there are clear; lets help solve some of them and at the same time tax the crap out of it. Either way I think its time we start making some changes to what we call illegal, what we are willing to let the big corps get away with, and how many more rights we are willing to give up.
Mar 18, 2011 5:58PM
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Basically what we're all getting at is that everything is bad for you in one way or another, some obviously more than others but the right to choose what I put into my own body, as long as it doesn't endanger or affect anyone else directly, I think should be a freedom that we all should have. It's simply unethical to tell people what they can and cannot do to themselves, plain and simple. If they want to put ciggarette addiction into the same categories as other drugs that have the potential to be abused and offer help to people I think that would be fine and beneficial to society, but we've all learned how making something illegal when there's an obvious market for it just increases crime rates. We would make ciggarettes a black market item and force them to be distributed and manufactured by criminals the same exact way that prohibition was and the way the war on drugs has gone thus far. You would think someone would see a pattern here but apparently every person we elect into office is just a selfish imbecile like all the rest.

Mar 18, 2011 5:33PM
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They would probably be cheaper on the Black Market anyway.  To coin a phrase from one of my NRA buddies... They can have the Newport from my cold, dead hand !!!!   Mind your own damn business FDA!!!!
Mar 18, 2011 4:47PM
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How about they use the time trying to decide whether or not to ban something and start cracking down on stores that sell cigarettes and alcohol to minors, start hitting people with fines or arresting them for giving a cigarette or liquor to a minor. They worry about minors using the product, stop making it available to them. Stores and the general public need to become more accountable.

 

They got rid of caffeine in four loko, but that doesn't stop people from vodka and red bulls/rockstars making their own style of four loko.

Mar 18, 2011 4:35PM
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I am a non-smoker, one who stopped decades ago so what I write does not come from any need to defend a filthy habit.

 

One need only ask what tax gets raised to make up for the losses of tax revenue that would come with any stoppage of mentholated smoking.  If 20% of all smokes are menthol then it stands to reason we might lose some twenty percent of any taxes collected off of smoking.  I do not need to tell you this is a bad thing for we all pay an ever increasing amount in income taxes and we mostly all own our own homes with the ever increasing taxes those bring to our wallets. 

 

Forget for a moment this is a SIN tax and no politician in the world ever gets rid of a sin tax.  Again, who makes up the lose of all that nice revenue, the poor and unemployed?????

Mar 18, 2011 5:29PM
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The FDA is barking up the wrong tree here. Perhaps this is an attempt to justify their Department. 
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