Mind and Body

FDA: Menthol Does Not Raise Smoker Risk

Menthol tobacco products may not increase smokers' risk of disease more than other cigarettes, according to a draft report from a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Still, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which is charged with making recommendations on menthol products to the agency, said that menthol may mask the harshness of smoking and could be more attractive to young smokers.

According to the report, released late Monday, there is insufficient evidence to show that menthol increases smoke inhalation, exposure to nicotine or disease risk. Analysts say the results are in line with expectations and echo what panel members had said in prior public meetings.
Shares of Lorillard jumped 4.2 percent to $80 in pre-market trading. Lorillard would be most affected by an outright ban on, or other tight regulation of menthol, as the vast majority of its revenue comes from its menthol cigarettes.

Menthol cigarettes comprise nearly one-third of all cigarette sales volume. Reynolds American and Altria Group also offer menthol products but do not rely on them as much for sales. Reynolds' shares did not trade pre-market and Altria was up three cents to $25.40.

The tobacco advisory panel will meet Wednesday to further discuss the potential public health risks of menthol products and will issue a final report to the FDA by March 23. The agency is not required to follow the committee's recommendations.

Last week, Lorillard and Reynolds American sued to stop the FDA from drawing on the panel's recommendations, alleging conflicts of interest by several of the advisory group's members.

Investors were encouraged by the draft chapters released Monday, but analysts are more measured in their response.

Morgan Stanley called the chapter on physiological effects "hostile," but noted that the language used was somewhat subjective, rather than evidence-based.

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