Why banning menthol cigarettes is important

Although the number of smokers has declined significantly over the past decade, menthol is the cigarette smoked by nearly 18.6 million Americans. Menthol has a cooling and analgesic effect and, as an additive to cigarettes, it numbs the throat and masks the harshness of tobacco, making it easier to start smoking and harder to quit.

But now may be the time to break the mint sticks. Reports point to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be gearing up for a nationwide ban on menthol cigarettes — something public health and many civil rights advocates say is long overdue because it will improve public health by America, will reduce health disparities, and advance health equity.

Given that nearly half a million Americans die prematurely each year from tobacco-related diseases, eliminating menthol cigarettes aims to save lives, especially in the communities targeted and disproportionately affected by these products. .

Read on to find out five ways menthol cigarettes are affecting the nation’s health and how banning it could make a difference.

1. Menthol cigarettes harm public health.

Menthol’s ability to cool and numb the throat masks the harshness of tobacco smoke. This may give smokers the illusion that cigarettes made with the additive are healthier or safer than regular cigarettes. But that’s definitely not the case. In fact, menthol allows smokers to inhale more deeply, which increases exposure to harmful chemicals and carbon monoxide.

As a result, these smooth smokes have attracted a generation of new smokers. A study looked at the effect of menthol cigarettes on public health from 1980 to 2018. The researchers reported in the journal tobacco control that menthol cigarettes accounted for more than 265,000 new smokers each year over the 38-year period. Furthermore, he revealed that menthol cigarettes were responsible for 10.1 million additional smokers, 3 million years of life lost and 378,000 premature deaths during those decades. This report suggests that banning menthol cigarettes could curb tobacco use and prevent unnecessary deaths, as tobacco advocates say.

2. Menthol cigarettes are used by 85% of black smokers.

In the 1950s, less than 10% of black smokers used menthol cigarettes. But in the decades that followed, that number grew because menthol cigarettes were more heavily advertised in urban neighborhoods with larger numbers of black residents. For decades, tobacco companies have deliberately targeted the black community with the marketing of menthol cigarettes, retail promotions, and sponsorship of community and musical events.

The effect of this targeting is staggering: among black Americans, menthol cigarettes were responsible for an additional 1.5 million smokers between 1980 and 2018, according to another tobacco control study that specifically looked at the effects of menthol smoking on African American communities. A ban on menthol cigarettes will likely have a positive impact on black communities, which are already burdened with the dangers of smoking.

3. Menthol cigarettes have the greatest impact on the health of black Americans.

In 2020, 14.4% of black adults smoked cigarettes, according to the Centers of Disease Prevention and Control. Although not the majority of the population, smoking is the number one preventable cause of death among black Americans, claiming 45,000 lives each year. It’s a major contributor to three of the leading causes of death for African Americans, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Menthol cigarettes are directly linked to this, with more than eight in ten black American smokers seeking menthol cigarettes. The result is a community that has seen 157,000 premature tobacco-related deaths and 1.5 million excess years of life lost in the years between 1980 and 2018. So while Black Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population , they accounted for an additional 15% of smokers. , 41% of deaths and 50% of years of life lost due to menthol, according to the tobacco control study. A ban on menthol cigarettes will help prevent loss of life.

4. Tobacco companies use marketing to attract children to menthol cigarettes.

Tobacco companies are strategic marketers, using themes and images that appeal to young people. They also rely on menthol to mask the harsh, acrid taste of tobacco, making them more palatable to novice smokers. And it works.

Data from national youth smoking surveys reveal that, compared to regular tobacco products, menthol and mint tobacco products are associated with greater smoking frequency and intention to continue smoking . Today, 41% of high school smokers use menthol cigarettes. And these children continue to smoke into adulthood, 90% of adult smokers began their relationship with tobacco when they were teenagers or younger, according to the FDA.

Removing menthol cigarettes from the equation could go a long way to increasing quit rates and protecting future generations from harm and addiction. In a longitudinal study by the Truth Initiative Schroeder Institute in Washington D.C., nearly a quarter of young menthol smokers (ages 18-34) said they would quit if mint cigarettes were no longer available. .

5. Smokers of menthol cigarettes have a harder time quitting.

Menthol cigarettes are in a class of their own: they lessen the irritating effects of cigarettes and can enhance the effects of nicotine, making it more addictive. All of this makes stopping more difficult.

Consider this: despite wanting to quit sticks more, smokers of menthol cigarettes tend to be less successful in their quit attempts than non-menthol smokers. For example, the odds of successfully quitting smoking were around 12% lower for black menthol smokers, compared to their non-menthol smoking counterparts, reports a 2019 meta-analysis published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

According to a recent Canadian study, an FDA ban on menthol cigarettes could do wonders to reduce the adverse public health effects of tobacco. There, researchers predicted that 923,000 adults, including 230,000 African Americans, would quit smoking up to 17 months after a US ban took effect. If you want to help, sign the petition to support the FDA’s decision to ban menthol cigarettes and tell them to act fast!

About Margaret Shaw

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