A coalition of researchers has teamed up to urge for the nationwide ban of menthol-flavored tobacco cigarettes, with two prominent health organizations, the American Medical Association and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, even going as far as suing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its complicity.
The urgency to ban menthol cigarettes is part of new research by Rutgers University, highlighting the substance’s disastrous effects on minority communities spanning numerous decades. The findings appeared in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
“It has been more than a decade since Congress crafted and passed the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA), which provided the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with broad authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect public health,” the co-authors wrote in their journal article.
“Given the disproportionate appeal of flavors to young people, the TCA included a key provision that banned flavors in cigarettes. Yet, the most popular flavor in cigarettes, menthol, was opportunistically exempted by Congress, who punted the issue to FDA’s Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee to review the available scientific evidence and make a recommendation about menthol to the FDA.”
According to the study’s authors, the move to inhibit the ban of flavored cigarettes by members of Congress infuriated countless experts who lamented the sale of these tobacco-based products for young adults, particularly concerned with its high rates among Black Americans.
“It is important to note that in the context of inaction on menthol, young people and Black smokers are not the only vulnerable populations that warrant attention with respect to menthol smoking,” the authors added.
“Our analyses highlight that preference for menthol among cigarette smokers is also disproportionately high among lesbian, gay, and bisexual smokers, smokers with mental health problems, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, and pregnant women.”
In spite of the findings, the research team urges policymakers to rethink the marketing, sale, and consumption of menthol cigarettes, with strong action necessary at the state and federal level to protect the youth and vulnerable populations.
The study was authored by Cristine Delnevo, Ollie Ganz, and Renee Goodwin.