FDA to ban Newports and other menthol cigarettes

The FDA’s deliberations over a possible ban on menthol cigarettes have touched off a firestorm of debate within the African American community, and among public health groups divided about how to wean black consumers from their heavy dependence on cigarettes spiked with the minty flavoring.

On Monday, the debate among African American organizations burst into the open after the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, joined ranks with the anti-smoking group, the American Legacy Foundation, in calling for a ban on menthol as a cigarette flavoring.

The NAACP’s appeal came just days after three other African American groups — the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives — urged the FDA to reject a ban on mentholated cigarettes. Those groups, testifying before a recent meeting of the FDA’s scientific advisory panel on tobacco products, expressed concern that banning mentholated cigarettes could spur an illicit market for the outlawed products in minority communities where they are favored. Such a trade in banned menthol cigarettes, in turn, would likely drive a range of illegal activity and put new burdens on law enforcement agencies, they warned.

After decades of marketing mentholated cigarettes in minority communities and blunting criticism by supporting minority causes, the tobacco companies have secured a huge following in minority communities, where rates of smoking remain stubbornly high. As many as 80% of African American smokers favor menthols, as do 30% of Latinos. By comparison, 22% of non-Latino whites smoke mentholated cigarettes. At least one large study, published in 2009, has found that those who smoke mentholated cigarettes find it harder to kick the habit than those who smoke unflavored tobacco.

On Monday, the NAACP’s Defense and Education Fund cited that disproportionate tobacco marketing to minorities as a reason for its support of a ban. Joined by the National Afgrica-American Tobacco Prevention Network and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, as well as by the Legacy Foundation, NAACP said the FDA “should help millions of Americans avoid tobacco-related death and disease” by banning menthol in cigarettes.

“Menthol is not just a flavorant; it makes it easier for our youth to start smoking; it keeps people smoking, and it inhibits them from quitting,” said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. “Menthol makes the poison go down easier.”

“We are in a state of disbelief that some of our Black leadership organizations … continue to act as front groups for the predatory tobacco industry,” McGruder fumed.

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3 Comments

  • John

    Reply Reply October 29, 2010

    US Population:
    White: 237,854,954 (From US Census)
    21.9% smoke = 52,090,234 smokers (From American Cancer Society)
    25% menthol smokers = 13,022,581
    Black: 37,909,341
    23% smoke = 8,719,148 smokers
    75% menthol smokers = 6,539,361

    There are more white people who smoke menthol cigarettes than black people in the United States. Given this fact, is menthol cigarettes really a race issue after all?

    I happen to be white and a menthol smoker and I when I go to the store, I want the choice to either purchase menthol or non-menthol cigarettes. It’s that simple.

  • Rachel

    Reply Reply December 27, 2010

    Okay so,
    My dad died in january (of 2010) of lung and brain cancer.
    the doctors were surprised that it only took 15 years of smoking for him to get lung cancer.
    my dad was only 40 when he passed
    guess what he smoked?!?! newport MENTHOLs!
    It was extremely difficult watching my father (the strongest man in my life) waste away.

    People, this is getting ridiculous.
    Regardless of menthol or non-menthol, or if you black or white or asian or whatever, smoking is the dumbest decision you could possibly do.
    WAKE UP AMERICA, you are killing your own citizens by producing this product. so knock it off!

  • Jackie

    Reply Reply February 23, 2016

    I feel it really don’t matter what color you are or what brand of cigarettes you smoke. They all are bad for us. My mother who is an African American. just past away 02/03/16 @ 72 young. She had COPD( emphysema) she smoked none metal which was (Winston’s) but let the doctors tell it the Emphysema started way back when she worked around chemicals & the smoking just made it worse. So it’s things that gives us sickness either way you look at it. (Products) (food) even ( medication) that we use at home & work that we think wouldn’t harm us. Think about it

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