RICHMOND, Va. — As talk of what the U.S. Food & Drug Administration will do with menthol cigarettes swirls about, Philip Morris USA has shown that it hasn’t given up on the category with the introduction in October of new Marlboro Skyline cigarettes.
Steve Callahan, spokesperson for PM USA, describes the cigarette as a “premium menthol cigarette made from an all-bright blend of tobacco.”
The product is available nationally, except in Michigan, where the company is testing yet another menthol, in a version of its Marlboro Special Blend cigarettes. “It’s a test market, and we’ll take our learnings from the test market and make decisions from that,” Callahan told CSP Daily News in an exclusive interview.
As for sales thus far, “These just went into the market last month, so it’s too early to tell,” he said.
Meanwhile, Philip Morris USA continues to see an opportunity in menthol, he said, as it accounts for about 25% of the cigarette market. As for the FDA discussions, Callahan said PM USA has actively participated in the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) process, sharing its understanding of the science and evidence tied to menthol, and that it will continue to do so.
“Phillip Morris USA believes that the collective science and evidence-based information doesn’t support a recommendation to ban menthol,” he said.
In June, Altria Client Services–parent of Philip Morris–provided a 166-page document to TPSAC on behalf of PM USA backing that belief. It included information on the design, fabrication and testing of menthol cigarettes; marketing menthol cigarettes; health effect of menthol cigarettes compared with non-menthol cigarettes; a Total Exposure Study from PM USA; mechanistic studies on the sensory, desensitization and reported local anesthetic effects of menthol cigarettes; menthol cigarettes and smoking initiation; menthol smoking prevalence and dependence; and menthol smoking and cessation.
A report and recommendation from TPSAC is expected in March 2011. Until that time, PM USA will continue business as usual while participating in the TPSAC process. And Callahan encourages retailers to also take a part in the process by offering the public comment that is sought after on the FDA’s website.
“At the core, we believe menthol should remain a viable choice for the millions of adult smokers who currently prefer them,” he said.
By Linda Abu-Shalback Zid