Feb. 25 2011
WASHINGTON, DC — The Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds tobacco companies today sued the U.S. government to block a scientific advisory committee from even reviewing the evidence and making a non-binding report to the Food and Drug Administration about menthol cigarettes.
Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds have acted out of panic. They fear that the committee, having examined the evidence, will recommend effective actions that reduce or eliminate the lucrative market for menthol cigarettes. Once again, they are putting profits ahead of lives and health.
Their lawsuit is groundless. The FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee was constituted and is acting in accordance with the 2009 law granting the FDA authority over tobacco products, as well as other relevant federal laws.
The committee has been presented with compelling evidence that menthol increases the number of kids who start smoking and may also make it harder for smokers to quit, and that marketing of menthol cigarettes has been targeted at African-American and other communities. That is exactly the kind of evidence that Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds are fighting to keep secret. It is critical to public health that the committee moves forward with issuing its menthol report on March 23, as required by Congress when it enacted the law giving the FDA authority over tobacco products.