In Victory for Health, Appellate… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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In Victory for Health, Appellate Court Overturns Misguided Ruling Regarding FDA’s Tobacco Advisory Committee

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 15, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – In a significant victory for public health, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today overturned a misguided lower court ruling that found three members of the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) had conflicts of interest – or just the appearance of conflicts of interest – and barred the FDA from using a March 2011 report on menthol cigarettes issued by the committee. A three-judge panel unanimously reversed the lower court ruling.

This ruling buttresses the FDA’s ability to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and protects the agency’s access to critical advice from the nation’s foremost experts in reducing tobacco use. Both the TPSAC report and an independent scientific review conducted by the FDA provide more than adequate scientific evidence for the FDA to take action on menthol.

The TPSAC menthol report, which was prepared with great integrity and is a sound scientific document, concluded, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

The FDA’s independent report, issued in July 2013, concluded that menthol cigarettes pose a greater public health risk than regular cigarettes because they lead to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking. “These findings, combined with the evidence indicating that menthol’s cooling and anesthetic properties can reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and the evidence indicating that menthol cigarettes are marketed as a smoother alternative to nonmenthol cigarettes, make it likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes,” the FDA’s report concluded.

Together, these two reports leave no doubt that menthol cigarettes have a profound adverse impact on public health in the U.S., resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use. The FDA has an obligation to act on this scientific evidence and ban menthol cigarettes in the U.S.

If the lower court ruling had been allowed to stand, it would not only have made it more difficult for the tobacco advisory committee to have the benefit of the best scientific minds available, but also could have undermined the FDA’s broader ability to carry out its mission and protect public health. The three scientists named in the lawsuit are individuals of unquestioned integrity, and the tobacco advisory committee has operated in a transparent, open manner consistent with all U.S. laws.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and 17 other public health and medical organizations filed an amicus brief in the case.