Health

Menthol Cigarettes Come Under FDA Scrutiny

Aggressively marketed to African-Americans for years, the minty-flavored nicotine may soon go 'up in smoke'

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to take a bold and historic action against the tobacco industry this week by seeking a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes, Fox Business is reporting.

The decision is part of the agency’s aggressive strategy to curb nicotine addiction in “both minors and African-Americans,” noted that outlet.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb is also set this week to also announce a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes in tens of thousands of convenience stores and gas stations across the nation.

E-cigarette flavors such as mint, mango, and cucumber are much more appealing to teens than the harsh tobacco flavor of regular cigarettes — making it immensely easier for young people to get hooked on the addictive chemical.

Menthol is also coming under the FDA’s scrutiny.

Because of the minty flavor and the “cooling” sensation of menthol cigarettes, some smokers think they’re a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, Vice.com reported.

For years, the tobacco industry has heavily marketed menthol cigarettes to African-Americans via “culturally tailored advertising images and messages,” reported Tobaccofreeflorida.com (an example of an ad is pictured above, far left).

Its marketing plans were successful — by 2013 in the U.S., nearly nine out of 10 black smokers aged 12 years and older preferred menthol cigarettes to non-menthol cigarettes, according to a study that website references.

“All of these cigarettes cause cancer. Period,” Raja Flores, director of the thoracic surgical oncology program at New York City’s  Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai told Vice.

“Menthol will make you inhale more. The more you smoke, the greater your chances of getting cancer,” Flores also noted.

Additionally, menthol smokers took bigger, longer puffs compared to people who smoked non-menthols a 2017 CDC (Centers for Disease Control) study revealed.

The proposal to ban menthol cigarettes will have to go through the FDA’s vast and complicated regulatory process first, health officials told The New York Times, and it could take several years before the restriction is in place, especially if tobacco companies throw their weight around.

Government data revealed that e-cigarette sales have risen a whopping 77 percent among high schoolers and 50 percent among middle schoolers in 2018, while menthol cigarette products have been heavily marketed toward African–Americans.

Earlier this year, San Francisco passed a ban against the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes, as Fox Business also noted.

Related: E-Cigarette Use Among Teens May Be Vastly Underestimated

The smoking of traditional cigarettes has fallen to an all-time low, to 14 percent in 2017, according to federal data.

Yet vaping, or smoking e-cigarettes, has skyrocketed.

Data from an ongoing survey called Monitoring the Future suggests that one out of three high school seniors in this country had used a nicotine-containing e-cigarette within the year.

See more in the video below.

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