Shadow FDA Panel Wants Menthol Out of Cigarettes

To coincide with a two-day meeting of the government-appointed FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Panel, which includes representatives from the tobacco industry, a Shadow Panel set up earlier this year issued a consensus statement today, which is appended in its entirety below.

The Shadow Panel is the brainchild of Dr. Michael Siegel and Dr. Alan Blum, two leaders in the tobacco control field, and both controversial in their own ways. Dr. Siegel, for example, maintains a blog in which he has often criticized the movement for stretching or exaggerating the science underpinning tobacco control, thereby opening it up to charges of deceit from critics.

Dr. Alan Blum has also been a pioneer in the field and has many credits to his name, including starting Doctors Ought to Care, and editing the New England Journal of Medicine which devoted several issues entirely to the smoking pandemic, an unprecedented action.

Further background information can be found following the press release immediately below:

The FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Shadow Panel today released the following statement, issued with the unanimous support of its members:

“The FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Shadow Panel supports the elimination of the use of menthol in cigarettes. There is strong evidence that menthol acts as an anesthetic agent that makes cigarette smoking more appealing by masking the harshness of burning tobacco. The addition of menthol deceives consumers into thinking that cigarettes are less harsh and therefore safer. Furthermore, for more than half a century, menthol cigarette brands have been disproportionately targeted to African Americans.

The FDA Shadow Panel wishes to emphasize two additional points. First, we believe that the FDA is digging a hole for itself by trying to provide a scientific argument for increased addiction, morbidity, or mortality attributable to menthol cigarettes. The central question is not a scientific one, but a marketing matter.

Second, there is no evidence that any safer cigarette exists. Congress chose to ban flavored cigarettes not because they are more harmful or addictive, but because it believed that candy and fruit flavors were a significant factor in the marketing of cigarettes. The FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee has no choice but to use the same criteria to evaluate menthol. The central question is whether menthol plays a role in marketing cigarettes to consumers. The FDA Shadow Panel believes it is undeniable that menthol is used to increase the appeal of cigarettes.”

The FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Shadow Panel was formed to monitor the FDA’s new agency on tobacco and its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Panel, as well as to issue alternative or parallel consensus statements and recommendations. Each of the members of the Shadow Panel has worked for at least a decade to counteract the tobacco pandemic, and none has a conflict of interest with regard to the tobacco industry or pharmaceutical industry.

The members of the Shadow Panel are:

Alan Blum, MD – Co-Chair
Director, Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society
University of Alabama

K.H. (Heinz) Ginzel, MD
Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology and Toxicology
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Edward Anselm, MD
Medical Director, Americhoice
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

John R. Polito, JD
Founder and Director of
Co-Founder of Freedom from Nicotine

Eric Solberg, MS
Associate Dean, University of Texas Health Sciences Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH – Co-Chair
Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences
Boston University School of Public Health

Martin Pion, BSc
President and Founder, Missouri GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution) Inc.

Michael S. Givel, PhD
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Oklahoma

John O’Hara, BS, MS, PhD
President and Founder, Maryland GASP

For more information, see the FDA Shadow Panel web site at:

Bio for Michael Siegel, M.D.

Dr. Michael Siegel is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health. He has more than 24 years of experience in tobacco control research and advocacy, having begun his career in the anti-tobacco field as a college student who wrote and successfully lobbied for smoke-free workplace legislation in Rhode Island.

After graduating from Brown University with a degree in environmental studies and receiving his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Siegel completed a residency in preventive medicine at the University of California, Berkeley.

He then served as a medical epidemiologist in the EIS program at the Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he conducted research on secondhand smoke, tobacco advertising, and the effects of tobacco control policies.

At Boston University School of Public Health, he conducts research on a wide range of tobacco control issues, focusing on the evaluation of national, state, and local policies. He is the author of the book Marketing Public Health: Strategies to Promote Social Change, and the developer and author of the most widely-read tobacco policy blog:
The Rest of the Story — Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary.

Bio for Alan Blum, M.D.

Dr. Alan Blum is a family physician and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa. He is the first holder of the Gerald Leon Wallace Endowed Chair in Family Medicine at the University’s College of Community Health Sciences.

One of the foremost authorities on tobacco problems, Dr. Blum is the Director of the University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, which he established in 1999. He devotes much of his time at the Center to creating museum exhibitions on tobacco-related issues through the Center, which holds the largest archive of original tobacco marketing and tobacco industry materials in the world.

From 1977 to 2002, he directed DOC (Doctors Ought to Care), a national nonprofit organization that created pioneering strategies in the clinic, classroom and community to counteract tobacco use and promotion. He served on the faculty of the Baylor College of Medicine from 1987 to 1999.

Dr. Blum has given more than 1,700 invited lectures in all 50 states, and has published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals. As editor of the New York State Journal of Medicine and the Medical Journal of Australia in the 1980’s, he published the first-ever theme issues of any medical journal devoted entirely to a consideration for ending the world tobacco pandemic.

For his work, Dr. Blum has received the Surgeon General’s Medallion, presented by Dr. C. Everett Koop, the National Public Health Award of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Gleitsman Foundation Award for health activism, the annual McGovern Achievement Award from the American School Health Association, and the Washington Monthly Journalism Award.

2 responses to “Shadow FDA Panel Wants Menthol Out of Cigarettes

  1. I like this post, as well as this whole website. it is very well put together and the information that you have shown here is also top notch and a powerful read for me. Please keep creating such super material. Thanks alot.

  2. Martin, you noted that the Shadow Panel wrote, “There is strong evidence that menthol acts as an anesthetic agent that makes cigarette smoking more appealing by masking the harshness of burning tobacco.”


    Y’know, that’s the problem you run into when you have priests making rules about sex.

    Martin, since you seem convinced that you’ve been forced to inhale massive quantities of tobacco smoke all your life unwillingly, it certainly can’t hurt you to try a little experiment. Go out and get a pack of Marlboros and a pack of Kools. Light up one from each pack. Then try inhaling the smoke of the two.

    You will find that this “anaesthetic effect” nonsense is simply that: *nonsense*! Menthol, if you’re not accustomed to it, BURNS the back of your throat as you try to inhale it if you’re not a regular smoker.

    Of course all these “Tobacco Control Scientists”know nothing of what they’re talking about so they just make up all sorts of fantastical things that fit in with their prejudices and suppositions. It really IS like priests and rules about sex.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

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