What will all the stoners do if they can't get packs of Newports? [h=1]F.D.A Takes Steps Toward Ruling on Menthol Cigarettes[/h] [h=6]By SABRINA TAVERNISE[/h] WASHINGTON â€” The Food and Drug Administration inched closer on Tuesday to a decision on whether to ban menthol in cigarettes, releasing its own scientific review that found the mint flavoring made it easier to start smoking and harder to quit. The agency also published a notice in the federal register calling for input from the public on the â€œpotential regulation on menthol in cigarettes,â€ another step in the rulemaking progress that began in 2009 when Congress exempted menthol from a ban on flavors in cigarettes. The move is likely to please smoking opponents, who have been calling for F.D.A. action on menthol cigarettes. They account for about a quarter of all cigarettes smoked in the United States and are particularly popular among African-Americans. Still, it was only an intermediate step in what advocates say has been a prolonged process. Many expected the agency to act on menthol in 2011 after a Congressionally mandated committee of outside experts, convened by the F.D.A., found that menthol had a negative effect on public health. â€œThis is either a way to take the heat off, or the beginning of a meaningful process,â€ said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group. â€œThatâ€™s the book the jury is still out on.â€ Mitchell Zeller, the new head of the F.D.A.'s Center for Tobacco Products, said the steps the agency took on Tuesday showed it is moving forward as fast as it can. The public comment period will be open for 60 days. â€œThe F.D.A. is a regulatory agency,â€ he said on a conference call for journalists. â€œAs a regulatory agency we can only go as far as the regulatory science will take us.â€ He added: â€œThe bottom line is, we need more information. We also need input from the public.â€ Mr. Myers said the timing of the announcement was likely linked to an international trade dispute. The United States has until Wednesday to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling. It held that the United States ban on clove cigarettes under the 2009 law violated Indonesiaâ€™s trade rights if the United States was not also banning menthol. Indonesia, a maker of clove cigarettes, brought the suit. The United States contended that menthol posed a different public health risk than other flavors, but the W.T.O. did not accept the argument.