FDA must end sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now has the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco products containing nicotine from any source. The FDA’s proposal to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will save thousands of lives every year going forward.

Nicotine is an insecticide and is the addictive drug in cigarettes and other tobacco products. The menthol in cigarettes makes quitting smoking harder because it enhances the effects of nicotine on the brain, making menthol cigarettes even more addictive. People who smoke menthol cigarettes are less likely to successfully quit smoking than people who smoke other cigarettes. In recent years, tobacco companies have increased the amount of nicotine in some menthol cigarettes.

Flavored cigars, including small ones called cigarillos, are popular among teenagers. According to the FDA, more than half a million young people use flavored cigars.

Menthol cigarettes have long been a gateway to smoking for teens. A survey of adult smokers revealed that the majority started with menthol cigarettes.

Young people, racial and ethnic minorities, women, low-income people and people with mental disorders are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other population groups. The tobacco industry preys on the most vulnerable.

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The vast majority of black smokers use menthol cigarettes, which are easier to smoke and harder to quit. The tobacco industry has been strategically and aggressively targeting black communities with menthol cigarettes for decades, including placing more advertising in their neighborhoods and in publications popular with black audiences, as well as appropriating culture in the marketing, including sponsoring events such as hip-hop and jazz festivals.

While the proposed rules are subject to a public comment period, aggressive opposition from the tobacco industry, which has been fighting these restrictions at the local, state and federal levels for years, is expected to continue and intensify. . They made strategic financial contributions and worked to align themselves with black leaders and politicians to sow fear that menthol bans would unfairly target African Americans and lead to further criminalization of their communities. The FDA has made it clear that the application will be focused on manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers, not individual consumers.

The argument that a ban on these products would create a black market is refuted by data from countries where menthol and other flavored cigarettes are already banned, which show that there was no likelihood of illicit trade in menthol cigarettes after they were banned.

Menthol cigarettes have been banned for years in the European Union and Canada. After the implementation of these bans, 8% of menthol smokers in the European Union and 21% of menthol smokers in Canada quit smoking completely.

Some on the left claim that this ban is racist, but that is not true as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda are among the African countries that have banned menthol cigarettes. Others say it’s a matter of social justice. It’s neither; it is simply a public health issue, as cancers and other diseases caused by smoking do not discriminate racially or socially.

It is long overdue. The FDA must end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

John Michael Pierobon is an active member of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Broward County, Tobacco Free Volusia, and the Tobacco-Free Workgroup of the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade..

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