As a non-smoker, I never realized that menthol-flavored cigarettes were so specifically dangerous. That is until I heard about the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. The AATCLC has been noting this problem for years.
Specifically, “in 2009, Congress passed — and President Obama signed into law — the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The act implemented a total flavor ban in cigarettes, but excluded menthol subject to further research on the public health impacts of menthol in cigarettes.” More research.
“In 2011, the FDA’s Advisory Committee concluded that the ‘Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.’ Though Canada, the European Union, Ethiopia, and other countries have taken menthol off the market, the United States has yet to do so, despite overwhelming evidence collected by the FDA that a menthol ban would benefit public health.”
The CDC notes, “Menthol in cigarettes creates a cooling sensation in the throat and airways when the user inhales, making cigarette smoke feel less harsh on the user.” So it’s not surprising that “studies have shown that menthol in cigarettes likely leads people—especially young people—to experiment with smoking.”
Moreover, “there also is heavy marketing by tobacco companies in African American neighborhoods, magazines that are popular with African Americans, and at music and lifestyle events aimed at African Americans.” Nearly 9 in 10 black Americans smoke menthol cigarettes, compared with less than a quarter of white Americans.
This is interesting. “Women who smoke are more likely to use menthol cigarettes than men who smoke. A 2009-2010 study showed LGBT people who smoke are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than heterosexual people who smoke, and that the difference was even greater in terms of LGBT women versus heterosexual women.”
Along with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), AATCLC brought a Formal Complaint against the FDA back in June 2020. “The lawsuit asks the court to compel the FDA to carry out its statutory duties under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and take steps to add menthol to the original list of prohibited characterizing flavors. Such action would result in the removal of menthol-flavored tobacco products from the marketplace.”
However, there are folks who, for quite legitimate reasons, fear a menthol ban will make a bad situation worse.” People will start selling menthol cigarettes illegally [which will] make the community more vulnerable to police harassment.” It could “lead to greater tensions with police in black communities.”
Per this recent article, the issue remains unresolved.