🚬The Menthol Ban Is About Equity Too
The FDA wants to ban menthol cigarettes, but their reasoning is not entirely because of the product itself (though, to be clear, cigarettes kill). The ban of menthol and other flavored cigarettes would help prevent "youth initiation", or the targeting of young adults and teens, says the government agency, and the ban would also help fight health disparities that have widened as a result of the tobacco industry's targeting of Black consumers with menthol cigarettes.
Keith Wailoo, a history professor at Princeton and the author of a book on the subject of menthol cigarette advertisement, says that the tobacco companies began targeting the Black consumers in 1964 after the FDA ruled that the industry could no longer advertise to minors. “It's then that the industry began to pivot aggressively towards targeted marketing in Black communities,” he said, reports NPR.
A government survey found that 85 percent of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, while only 29 percent of white smokers do, says the New York Times.
The FDA notes that “menthol also interacts with nicotine in the brain to enhance nicotine’s addictive effects.”
“Smoking Is Back”
The rise of the Juul e-cigarette and vaping, as well as aesthetic uses of cigarettes on social media, have led to a rise in smoking. As the New York Times states, 2020 saw the first uptick in cigarette sales after a two-decade decline, even after hitting an all-time low in 2018. “Smoking is back,” 24-year-old Isabel Rower told the publication. “I don’t know why. No one is really addicted to it. It’s more of a pleasure activity.”
While it’s disheartening to see a return to smoking — whether because of the pandemic or because of social media — it’s hopefully to know that the FDA is pursuing regulations that end health disparities and trade practices rooted in racial profiling.