“Menthol cigarettes are designed to be easier to smoke,” said Stein. “That means they make it easier to get hooked. What’s more, they’re marketed in ways that disproportionately harm young people and people of color. I urge the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes and help us prevent another generation of North Carolinians from become addicted to nicotine and suffering the consequences in years to come.”
In the letter to the FDA, the Attorney General and a bipartisan coalition of 23 attorneys: Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, pointed out that a menthol ban could save thousands of lives.
They explained that menthols remain a key barrier in smoking cessation, and highlight that the FDA’s own data on the addictiveness of menthol cigarettes, shows that the menthol component masks the harshness of smoke, making it easier non-smokers to start smoking.
A matter of social justice
In line with this, 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 matter of social justice.
“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.”
Another recent study conducted by Delnevo found that while cigarette consumption dropped by 46% between 2000 and 2018, 85% of this decline was attributed to non-menthol cigarettes. “There is extensive research showing that the tobacco industry has been targeting the African American community with advertising for menthol cigarettes for decades,” she said.
FDA sued for lack of action against menthols
Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council 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.”
The FDA is focused on the wrong type of flavoured products
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.
Read Further: ABC11