A Significant Contraband Market'

Ramminger testifies against on menthol ban

FAIRFAX, Va. -- AWMA president and CEO Scott Ramminger testified before the FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) this past week as the committee decides whether or not to recommend a ban on menthol to flavor cigarettes.

Ramminger expressed serious concern that a ban on menthol cigarettes would be ineffective and create a significant contraband market with ill-effects for our members and others.

In his testimony Ramminger also stated that the committee should be looking to proven science with solid data when making its recommendation. Ramminger [image-nocss] told the committee that AWMA has studied cigarette sales and contraband markets for years, and if menthol were banned, a currently legal product would be replaced by a contraband market.

"The question you face is this: What happens if a federal edict is issued that lacks credibility with the public? Common sense tells us that a decision that lacks credibility will be disregarded by the public and exploited by black market operators," Ramminger said. "The end result will adversely affect our members' livelihoods, cost jobs, and lead to sales of unregulated cigarettes to underage youths. Those are the dangers of issuing an edict that has no credibility."

Ramminger's remarks will be considered, along with other statements, as part of the TPSAC study.

A final report from FDA's TPSAC with recommendations on menthol is scheduled to be issued this Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011.

AWMA has also sent a letter to the agency urging them not to consider any ban on menthol cigarettes. In the letter, AWMA notes that any action to ban this product would likely result in a significant increase in the contraband market and such action would make no sense in the face of solid scientific studies showing that menthol cigarettes have no different health effects than non-menthol.

Based in Fairfax, Va., the American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA) is the only international trade organization working on behalf of convenience distributors in the United States. Its distributor members represent more than $85 billion in U.S. convenience product sales. Associate members include manufacturers, brokers, retailers and others allied to the convenience product industry.