In April of 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on the manufacturing and sale of menthol cigarettes and cigars. The FDA hopes this ban will “help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit” along with reducing health disparities. Previous legislation has banned flavors, with the exclusion of tobacco and menthol, in cigarettes and e-cigarettes. It is important to note that the ban would target those making and selling menthol cigarettes, but it would not punish those who possess menthol cigarettes. This distinction allows Big Tobacco to experience consequences without penalizing those struggling with addiction.
Menthol may be one of the most popular flavors for tobacco products, but people may not be familiar with what it actually is. A chemical naturally found in peppermint, menthol can be described as minty and cooling. This flavoring may make smoking feel less harsh and seem healthier, but menthol can actually make it easier to start smoking and make it more difficult to quit. Studies have found that those who smoke menthol are less likely to quit when compared to those who smoke non-menthols.
Not only are menthol cigarettes designed to be more addictive, but they have also historically targeted African Americans through their marketing tactics. Mentholated brands, such as KOOL and Newport, have been advertised in Black publications and other media. Big tobacco also has a history of sponsoring Black events and organizations. For example, Philip Morris (owner of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, and other brands) has sponsored the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, and the United Negro College Fund. There are countless examples of Big Tobacco targeting African Americans and other minorities. Bans and regulations surrounding tobacco may prevent future generations from being impacted by the tobacco industry’s marketing, but decades of targeting have already damaged many individuals and communities.
By banning menthol, the FDA can work towards making tobacco less appealing and accessible. Not only could it prevent younger generations from using tobacco, but banning menthol could also act as an incentive to help those who currently smoke quit. As tobacco becomes more regulated and restricted, the tobacco industry loses its ability to influence more people to smoke. For more information on the proposed ban, you can check out the FDA’s official Press Announcement.
If you’re interested in learning more about tobacco reduction and cessation, please contact our team:
Monica Allen, Detroit Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Melissa Small, Ypsilanti/Jackson Tobacco Treatment Specialist