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Opinion | The sweet scent of the government’s reach

Without debate, tobacco reduces longevity and sabotages the otherwise healthy with debilitating diseases. It is a carcinogenic, cardiac arrest, stroke-inducing, lung-sucking, smelly scourge. But does tobacco rap-sheet justify the proposed menthol ban? The ACLU and other justice groups, drug policy shops and law enforcement are questioning the wisdom of a ban that hits hardest on black and brown communities. Aamra Ahmad, ACLU’s senior advisory lawyer, fears the ban will create a requirement for an underground supply of menthol smoke, and this underground will give police pretexts to conduct overwhelming criminal investigations involving black people and others based on the smell of their cigarette smoke.

“Time and time again we see meetings with the police because of minor offenses ̵

1; for Daunte Wright it was expired tags, for George Floyd it used a counterfeit bill, for Eric Garner selling the loose cigarettes – resulted in a murder,” Ahmad wrote.

The proponents reject the argument of slippery slope and note that a ban does not apply to consumers, but to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Why exclude users? Have the Prohibitors lost their temper? But as ReasonJacob Grier points out that any illegal menthol market that is rising is likely to be run by people inside the communities who eat the flavored cigarettes, giving police a wedge to investigate otherwise peaceful behavior. Currently in Massachusetts, a proliferation of local jurisdictions in other states and in Canada, where menthol cigarettes have been banned, menthol smugglers have entered the market.

The proposed ban constitutes a paradox of social justice that its proponents have not yet fought for. Where is the fairness in banning menthol cigarettes, which are incredibly popular with black consumers but undisturbed leave an equally unhealthy product, regular cigarettes, which are much more popular among white people? (Approximately 20 percent of white smokers reach out to menthol.) The ban would create a “smoking while black” system that punishes blacks, even if it is for “their own good,” while allowing the majority of whites to smoke theirs. favorite brand unloaded.

Prohibitors counteract the fact that menthol is particularly dangerous because it hides the hardness of tobacco and gives it a unique appeal to young smokers. The sand must slip out. Adolescents who smoke any type of cigarette have fallen sharply since the mid-1990s, with 16.1 percent of high school students often smoking in 1995 versus 1.3 percent in 2019. In fact, the use of menthol cigarettes among youth smokers fell between 2011 and 2018. The data do not It does not suggest that menthol cigarettes pose no danger to children, but it puts the danger in context.

Back in 2009, the government tried to ban menthol cigarettes as part of a statutory ban on flavored cigarettes – coffee, cola, spice, dessert, sweets, fruit and others. But menthol survived because of the influence of the tobacco industry, and industrial power will certainly stop or perhaps even prevent a ban this time. During the regulatory process, we need better explanations from the FDA as to why it is so hot to ban menthol. This was also a misleading ban because it prevented adults from buying cigs with flavorings to protect kiddies. If sweetness carries such an extreme risk of addiction, why not ban Cap’n Crunch or all the alcoholic beverages with fruits and sweets because a child might get one?

Another popular argument for a ban claims that menthol cigarettes are harder to quit than non-menthol brands and that their deletion from the market will bring us so many steps closer to a tobacco-free society. That would be a good thing, but would it? Will not many menthol smokers who are unable to find illegal menthol cigarettes transfer their nicotine habits to non-menthol cigarettes – or continue smoking with mentholed pipe tobacco – and continue smoking? A study of the Canadian ban on menthol shows that the measure is not exactly the silver bullet that some pretend to be. 63 percent of the menthol smokers who tried to quit, but 43 percent of the non-menthol smokers also tried to quit. In a follow-up, researchers found that 24 percent of daily menthol smokers quit after the ban compared to 14 percent of non-menthol smokers. These are pretty slim rejections for a lot of hassle. Meanwhile, another study found that the Canadian ban did nothing to reduce young people’s smoking rates.

One of the reasons why menthol is under attack is that the industrial complex in the field of public health has noticed that black smokers do not stop smoking cigarettes near the number of white smokers, and this difference caused some to to think that the key difference is menthol. But a May 2020 article in the scientific journal Nicotine and tobacco research provides another reason why the menthol ban may be quixotic. The authors who supported the ban found that black smokers of menthol cigarettes have approx. 12 percent lower “odds of quitting smoking compared to non-menthol users,” but attributed the difference to the industry’s clingy marketing to the black community. Reduced marketing of menthol cigarettes may reach some of the targets of the bans without all the harsh intervention.

It has been a decades-long, rough blow to reduce smoking from its dominant place in our culture to the subculture as it is today. America deserves a (virtual) cigar for that business! But we still have a long way to go to remove the weeds of the demon from our midst. However, some strategies are fairer and more humane than others. We should continue to help people quit smoking with education and therapy programs. We should encourage smokers to switch to relatively safer products such as e-cigarettes. And we should counteract and avoid the habit. But let’s stop making menthol cigarettes sellers – and by extension users – pariahs to practice their vice. The FDA needs a lighter regulatory touch that is less dependent on mashing ban buttons.


Who smokes the most? The poor, the less educated. Workers. Light me up, Sidney, with another email [email protected]. My email alerts have never smoked. My Twitter account favors Swisher Sweets. My RSS feed burns but does not smoke.

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