FDA proposes menthol cigarette ban citing addiction, future of youth smokers

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing a ban on menthol cigarettes, and although some people show support others say it’s a violation of people’s right to choose.

In 2009, the FDA banned certain flavors of cigarettes.

Now the administration wants to implement a ban on menthol, a flavor that makes the nicotine highly addictive, to reduce the number of tobacco-related diseases and to prevent youth from becoming smokers.

Dr. Mignonne Guy, Virginia Commonwealth University’s Faculty Investigator at the Center for Tobacco Products, said certain groups of people who smoke chose menthol.

“The population size of people that used menthol was much greater than those who used the other flavored products,” said Dr. Guy.

She said 85% of African Americans who smoke nationwide, smoke menthol.

The tobacco industry intentionally advertised menthol cigarettes in black and brown communities as well as the LGBTQ+ and low income white communities, said Dr. Guy.

“If Black Lives Matter then Black lungs matter, too. We have to make sure we protect our communities and we need to protect them from predatory marketing,” said Dr. Guy.

Her research showed if the FDA banned the menthol flavor at the manufacturing level, it would reduce smoking or increase quitting. 

She said this eliminates me of the tobacco industry’s main reasons to continue production, citing the illegal sale of menthol cigarettes.

When asked if the ban could lead to a black market of menthol cigarettes, Dr. Guy said, “There’s no reason to suspect that there would be a black market for these products simply because the smokers themselves said that they would just quit.”

However Dr. Shawn Utsey, professor of psychology at VCU, said a ban on menthol cigarettes could lead to the illegal sale of those products and increase the interactions of the minority community and police.

“My concern is that there are other issues that are affecting the health of black people,” he said.

Dr. Utsey suggests an emphasis on education and better access to healthcare instead of having the government police people’s choices.

“Let’s use those methods that have been proven to try to help improve health disparities and changed behavior,” he said.

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