Rutgers researchers Cristine Delnevo, director of the Center for Tobacco Studies and Prof. Ollie Ganz, a public health researcher and instructor in the Department of Health Behavior, Society and Policy, have recently co-authored a paper saying that a ban on menthol cigarettes should be considered a social justice issue.
It is a known fact that the vast majority of Black smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. “A menthol ban is essential for the protection of youth, and African American youth in particular,” said Ganz, emphasising that the action would be particularly beneficial to vulnerable populations.
“A menthol cigarette is inherently not more or less dangerous than a non-menthol cigarette,” continued Delnevo. “But if the menthol makes (it) easier to start and hard to quit — then this brings increased health risks — as the longer you smoke, the greater the health risks.”
Menthols’ use amongst the African American community
“Menthol cigarettes are also disproportionately promoted in lower-income communities. So I think that marketing is a huge part of this, but there is still a lot that we don’t know, particularly for certain vulnerable populations, such as sexual minorities and those with mental health problems.”
The FDA has been sued for not implementing a ban
Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council clearly concur and have in recent months joined forces in suing the FDA for failing to regulate menthol cigarettes, despite being urged by Congress to do so. On September 3rd, the American Medical Association (AMA) joined the suit as a co-plaintiff. “The world is moving in this direction, against menthol” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, managing attorney at ASH.
AMA President Dr. Susan R. Bailey, added that it is time Big Tobacco is stopped from preying on the African American community. “For generations, tobacco companies have promoted menthol cigarettes to the African American community, preying especially on African American youth,” she said. “The results are clear and grim; although African Americans usually smoke fewer cigarettes and start smoking at an older age, they are more likely than Whites to die from smoking-related diseases like heart disease and stroke.”
Ironically, while the FDA retains a relatively relaxed stance on menthol cigarettes, it has been focusing all its efforts on setting in place all sorts of restrictions on flavoured vaping products, despite all the data indicating their relative safety. In contrast earlier this year, the European Union Revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) banned the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes across Europe.
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