During the last meeting of recently created Tobacco products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) the participants discussed the pros and cons of banning menthol flavoring in cigarettes, with four of seven speakers focused the Committee’s attention on the message that banning menthol would result in the growth of black market.
Gilbert Ross, American Council on Science and Health’ Executive/medical, declared that ACSH at the beginning to know that menthol flavoring was not covered by the FDA ban on flavorings in cigarettes and carried out a review on that issue. During that research they discovered no physiological toxicities or disorders related to menthol flavoring in cigarettes, in addition to what is already found in cigarettes.
He said they were very surprised to understand that it was very difficult to put a ban on menthol cigarettes, as it has been evident that smokers who prefer menthol cigarettes have been quite loyal to consuming namely menthol cigarettes, so banning menthol flavoring would increase the probability of creating a black market, which in its turn would give under-aged smokers an access to menthol cigarettes and other banned substances.
Bruce Levinson, a senior staffer at Center for Regulatory Effectiveness warned the audience about the dangers that could be caused by black market. He cited a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives document, which said the black market doesn’t care about quality standards of the products, or the age of potential buyers, and that black market is linked with terrorism and organized crime.
Mr. Levinson also asked the TPSAC to review the report by ATF on the contraband and black market, and even invite the ATF to take part in the next meeting to give the Committee a view on the potential consequences of menthol ban from the point of view of black market.
Fredrick Flyer, vice president of Compass, a company hired by Lorillard Inc. to carry out economic analyses of the ban, admitted that despite they only had access to Lorillard’s data on Newport, nation’s top-selling menthol cigarette, they found relatively low elasticity in preference for the product.
He said that since there is a strong demand for menthol cigarette brands, the black market would benefit from the ban on legitimate sales of menthol cigarettes.
Lyle Beckwith, National Association of Convenience Stores senior vice president, declared that black market already benefits significantly from the sales of tobacco products, due to price difference, making the legal businesses suffer. He added that in case the menthol cigarettes were banned, there would be an increased demand on them at black market.
However, not all the participants of the meeting were focused on economic consequences of menthol cigarettes ban. Gary Giovino of the State University of New York, declared that the menthol cigarettes are equally dangerous as the non-mentholated ones, so they have been concerned that menthol simply masks the harshness of tobacco.
He cited The National Youth Smoking Cessation Survey that discovered that teenagers were more likely to prefer menthol cigarettes than young adults, and said they believe that banning menthol cigarettes would help to reduce smoking rates in teenagers.