Banning menthol cigarettes is not enough. Ban all smoking to save lives.

James K. Glassman

The Food and Drug Administration announced late last month that it wanted ban menthol cigarettes, which are the overwhelming preference of African American smokers. But if the smoking ban is good for blacks, who only make up about 1 in 7 cigarette smokers in the United States, why isn’t it also good for whites and other Americans?

A smarter policy would be to phase in an FDA ban on all products that burn tobacco and aggressively urge adult smokers who cannot stop switching to alternative devices that deliver much less nicotine. dangerous.

The causes of smoking 480,000 preventable deaths per year in the United States and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.”

Menthol cigarettes are harder to quit

According to the latest CDC data, black Americans smoke less than white people, But almost 85% of black smokers use Newport or other menthol cigarettes. This flavor makes it easier to start smoking and more difficult to quit, a Panel of experts convened by the FDA find. In 2011, the panel recommended that “removing menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit public health in the United States”.

Civil rights groups like the The NAACP also advocated the ban menthol cigarettes, but the tobacco industry pushed back, arguing that prohibition would create a huge illicit market and loss of tax revenue and jobs for the government.

Since 2011, however, a lot has changed. Alternative nicotine delivery devices now make it easier for smokers to switch, with much less risk. A 2015 Public Health England report, a government organization, said that “the best estimates show that electronic cigarettes are 95% less harmful to health than normal cigarettes and, when supported by a quit smoking service, help most smokers to quit smoking altogether. “

Research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association and elsewhere, vaping exposes users to much lower levels of toxic chemicals than smoking. And the FDA has given clearance as a modified risk tobacco product to snus, a wet powdered tobacco that has become a Help with smoking cessation in Sweden, and IQOS, a device that heats tobacco but does not burn it.

Doctor:New smoking and vape bans set us on a path to reduced addiction and better health

A FDA press release Last July, IQOS “dramatically reduced the production of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals.” A study found that the introduction of combustion-free heating products in Japan coincided with a smoking reduction by 10% per year between 2015 and 2018, compared to an annual decrease of 2% over the previous four years.

Offer incentives to quit or change

Electronic cigarettes turn liquid nicotine and other chemicals into vapor. They were used by 4.4% of American adults in 2018, and the companies that manufacture them are request FDA clearance.

Snus, unburnt heat devices, and e-cigarettes all offer mint or menthol flavors, and the Biden administration has been wise not to ban them with menthol cigarettes. If the political goal is to get Americans to quit smoking, then it makes sense to make the alternatives as attractive as possible.

Various brands and flavors of disposable vaporizers at a store in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York.

The European Union banned menthol cigarettes last year, and although a survey showed that 18% of menthol smokers have switched to an alternative, mainly vaping, more simply switched to non-flavored cigarettes – often dosing them manually with menthol. A ban on just one type of cigarettes won’t get many people to quit, but a more comprehensive ban will, especially if accompanied by an aggressive strategy to encourage the use of e-cigarettes. and other non-combustible products.

Public health tragedy:Electronic cigarettes are safer than smoking, but few know it

This is what the National Health Service in the United Kingdom has done. “While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes,” the NHS website says, “it is relatively harmless. Almost all the harms of smoking come from thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke. “

Public health England reported that vaping the prevalence among former smokers was 12% to 13% in 2019; Meanwhile smoke cigarettes “Has fallen significantly.”

In contrast, the CDC in the United States has taken an ambivalent position on vaping at best. This lack of support for alternatives is all the more moving for African Americans, who are more likely to try to quit than white but less likely to be successful, according to the CDC. America now has the chance to take a leadership role in global health by banning all cigarettes and providing incentives to switch to alternatives. Banning menthol is not enough.

James K. Glassman (@ JamesKGlassman1), former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy to President George W. Bush, chairs the International Commission to Revive the Fight to End Smoking, which will release a report in September. The commission is sponsored by the non-profit organization Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which is funded by Philip Morris International and describes itself as independent.

About Margaret Shaw

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