The FDA could ban menthol cigarettes. It’s time, especially for black America.

In 2009, Congress took the important step of banning flavored cigarettes that enticed youth to start smoking. However, this landmark legislation contained a major flaw: a loophole that allowed tobacco companies to continue selling menthol cigarettes.

For decades, tobacco companies have relied heavily on menthol flavoring — a chemical additive that occurs naturally and can also be made in the laboratory — because menthol facilitates and eases the initiation of smoking harder to stop. When added to cigarettes menthol creates a cooling effect that masks the sharpness of cigarette smoke, allowing the user to inhale deeper while enhancing the effects of nicotine, the addictive element in cigarettes.

For too long, black Americans have been on the receiving end of tobacco company tactics that put sales ahead of people’s health.

The Food and Drug Administration is finally considering action to finally close that gap, proposing rules earlier this year to end the sale of menthol cigarettes as well Everyone flavored cigars. The public comment period during which the Agency collects feedback to inform on the possible implementation of the proposed rules, ends on Tuesday. It is critical that we speak out now to end the sale of menthol – especially because of the many black lives that are at stake.

No doubt thanks predatory marketing tactics over the last four generations — including billboards, point-of-sale promotions, corporate sponsorships, coupons and free samples focused on Black communities — approximately 85% of blacks who smoke use menthol.

While Rates of menthol cigarette use in other communities are also too high, including 48% of Hispanic smokers and 30% of White smokers, tobacco companies with menthol have clearly and disproportionately targeted blacks.

The results are devastating: Tobacco use claims about 45,000 Black lives a year, a disproportionately high burden of tobacco-related deaths in America. Black adults are 30% more likely to die of heart disease and 47% Compared to white adults, they are more likely to die from stroke, two of the most serious smoking-related diseases.


Coupled with these statistics is the tobacco companies’ long history of ruthlessly targeting Black people and communities with menthol products. In the 1950s less than 10% of blacks smoked used menthol cigarettesaccording to a study commissioned by Philip Morris, but polls at the time indicated that black Americans had slightly higher preferences for these products than white Americans.

Furthermore, after World War II, migration pattern Among black Americans leaving the Deep South, concentrated population centers emerged across the United States, opening up new marketing advantages for businesses with the means to capitalize on. The tobacco industry has recognized these factors and exploited them to their advantage.

I experienced this firsthand growing up in East Nashville, Tennessee, a predominantly African-American area during my youth. I remember seeing billboards and signs at neighborhood grocery stores and pharmacies for menthol cigarettes making them look “cool”.

As it turned out, those ads were just the tip of the iceberg. Tobacco companies have a long history of recruiting black celebrities and athletes as spokespersons and advertising heavily in black news publications and magazines to target black youth, among others. An article published in the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine called it “a campaign of “master manipulation” Menthol Targeting African Americans” from the 1960s.

When I became a doctor, I saw the devastating effect of this persuasion almost daily. During my clinical career as a cardiologist in Nashville and Atlanta, I have served thousands of patients. I can’t remember anyone who had significant atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and didn’t smoke.

Since Congress first banned flavored cigarettes, the case for ending the sale of menthol cigarettes has only grown stronger. In 2011, an FDA Advisory Committee closed that stopping the sale of menthol would benefit public health. research Modeling a ban showed it would have put our country on pace to save a total of more than 633,000 lives by 2050, more than a third of them African Americans.

We cannot afford any further delays. Tobacco companies are still spending enormous sums of money Marketing their menthol brands to keep their highly addictive cigarettes cheap and visible in black communities. Young people are addressed early. research in two Ohio cities found that in areas with many black children, mentholated tobacco products are often advertised near candy displays.

True to form, tobacco company answered the FDA’s proposed rules by positioning themselves as community advocates. This is a continuation of a phenomenon from the 2009 legislative campaign described in the article in the National Library of Medicine: “Tobacco industry spokesmen insisted that making menthol available puts them on the side of the fight for justice by African Americans and civil rights groups.” enlisted help them plead this case.”

Today, the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, maker of one of the most widely used menthol cigarettes in the United States, says it wants to retain “access and choice,” even as it claims it is “committed to reducing tobacco harm” and “products made with… reduced risk.” Altria, Philip Morris’ parent company, claims the proposal would create “unregulated, criminal markets.”

These claims illustrate how tobacco companies resist public health action by trying to incite fear. It is cruel irony to consider that tobacco companies are attacking these communities – the communities of my youth and the communities I serve today – with products that kill tens of thousands of people every year. None of my patients who have had a heart attack, stroke, or leg amputation from smoking have ever thanked the tobacco companies for taking care of them.

It’s time to say “enough”. With the public comment period on the FDA’s proposal ending Tuesday, the agency must act quickly to withdraw menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from the market. This will save lives and prevent untold diseases and ailments.

For too long, black Americans have been on the receiving end of tobacco company tactics that put sales ahead of people’s health. The FDA’s proposed rules finally give our nation a chance to be on the right side of history and show that we genuinely care about the health of all of our communities. The FDA could ban menthol cigarettes. It’s time, especially for black America.

Fry Electronics Team

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