Oakland, Calif. (July 21, 2014) — U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon ruled that 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 banned the FDA from using TPSAC’s March 2011 report on menthol cigarettes.
“Today’s ruling by US District Court Judge Richard Leon to bar the FDA from using a March 2011 report on menthol cigarettes issued by the FDA’s own Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) is a terribly flawed interpretation of law that holds the devastating potential to derail scientifically sound, life-saving regulation of menthol cigarettes that target and disproportionally impact communities of color,” said Rod Lew, executive director of Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy, and Leadership (APPEAL) in response to the ruling.
The July 21 ruling was based on allegations, presented by the Lorillard Tobacco Company and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, that three members of the TPSAC had conflicts of interest – or simply the appearance of conflicts of interest, in spite of a selection process guided by appropriate US laws and advisory committee proceedings that were open and transparent.
Lew urged the Justice Department to move forward with an immediate appeal of the ruling and also that the FDA continue its important work aimed at protecting the American public from the harmful effects of menthol, which is designed to improve the taste of cigarettes making it easier to target women, youth, and ethnic minorities.
Of particular concern to APPEAL is that among certain Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) populations, the rate at which menthol cigarettes are smoked is alarming. AAMHPI smokers in the U.S., especially youths, are much more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than the general population. Over half of young AA smokers and 41.4 percent of young NHPI smokers report smoking a menthol brand. Additionally, research shows that menthol cigarettes are marketed towards communities of color and are more addictive than regular cigarettes.
“There are many important steps to reduce tobacco disparities, but one of the most important is removing menthol. The FDA must act now,” Lew said.
Judge Leon’s ruling can be found at https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2011cv0440-82.