Menthol cigarette consumption highest among marginalized groups, report finds

According to Ollie Ganz, who does public health research at Rutgers University in New Jersey, rates of menthol smoking are particularly high among lesbians and LGBTQ+ female smokers. Photo by me, SpuriousQ/Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) — According to a new report from the American Lung Association.

Along with black American smokers – about 81% of whom use menthol cigarettes – women and young people, LGBTQ+ people also disproportionately consume menthol.

According to Ollie Ganz, who does public health research at Rutgers University in New Jersey, rates of menthol smoking are particularly high among lesbians and LGBTQ+ female smokers.

“Menthol smoking is associated with nicotine dependence and poor withdrawal outcomes,” Ganz told Medill News Service.

“And so, if certain populations use mental cigarettes at disproportionately high rates, that could ultimately exacerbate tobacco-related disparities.”

Overall cigarette consumption declined between 2009 and 2019, but menthol-free cigarettes accounted for 91% of that decline, according to the report.

The Food and Drug Administration announced last April that it would propose rules to remove menthol cigarettes from the market.

However, the lung association report notes that it may take several years to enact these rules – a significant delay after the FDA first published reports in 2013 that limiting menthol sales would be beneficial to public health.

The tobacco industry‘s targeted marketing of menthol plays a significant role in driving these disparities, according to the report. Nearly 30 years ago, RJReynolds Tobacco Co. launched “Project SCUM” — or “Sub Culture Urban Marketing” — a plan to target LGBTQ+ populations in San Francisco, said report lead author Thomas Carr .

More recently, tobacco ads have included phrases such as “be proud of your flavor,” said Catherine Saucedo, associate director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

“They always sponsor pride events,” Saucedo said. “So they’re very insidious, and they’re definitely keeping that rate high.”

These marketing campaigns compound existing circumstances that put LGBTQ+ people at higher risk for addiction, Saucedo said.

“You may have violence and stress that has impacted these communities because of how they have been targeted, you have a higher risk for mental health, depression and anxiety,” said she declared.

“A lot of it can be due to coming out – there is rejection, it can be traumatic. There is discrimination even by health systems.”

Along with banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from the market, the report says raising tobacco taxes at the state level would be a key step in reducing tobacco consumption.

North Carolina, which ranks in the bottom four states for tobacco regulation in the report, also has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country, according to North Carolina executive director Morgan Wittman Gramann. Alliance for Health.

The alliance has advocated for the FDA to use its authority to ban menthol products, Wittman Gramann said. At the state level, the organization has focused on reducing youth smoking by securing funding for e-cigarette cessation programs.

“This is especially important because e-cigarette use by high school students increased 1129% in North Carolina between 2011 and 2019,” Wittman Gramann said.

In addition to reducing smoking rates in Black and LGBTQ+ communities, ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, such as menthol, will help curb the youth vaping epidemic, according to the report. Despite the overall decline in adult smoking rates, 2 million high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2021.

Tobacco use was also significantly higher among youth who identify as LGBTQ+, Carrsaid said.

Although the FDA is due to propose rules for regulating flavored tobacco in April, local and state governments in Carrsaid can still take action.

“We expect an instant lawsuit from the tobacco industry as soon as the final rules are proposed, which goes even further,” Carr said.

“States and local communities need to pass laws to prevent the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, and that would address the issue as well, at least at the state and local level. “

Although enacting a nationwide ban on the sale of flavored tobacco could take several more years, Ganz said the FDA’s April deadline is still an important milestone.

“It’s exciting from a tobacco control perspective,” Ganz said. “There is a lot of evidence that a ban on menthol has huge potential to save lives.”

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