The FDA announced its proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and other flavored cigarettes except for tobacco flavor. This is a massive step considering how menthol cigarettes disproportionately affect Black communities. The FDA hopes the ban will help Americans kick the deadly habit and reduce tobacco-related deaths and illnesses. In addition, the agency wants to reduce youth experimentation and addiction.
We were all taught that smoking cigarettes are terrible for our health. However, menthol cigarettes are one of the worst cigarettes to smoke. The menthol flavoring masks the harshness of tobacco, which causes smokers to engage in more intense smoking behavior. Thus causing more damage to one’s health than a regular cigarette.
There a nearly 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, many of which can cause severe cell damage and chronic inflammation. Smoking is linked to dangerous side effects and life-threatening diseases. Carbon monoxide levels can drastically reduce oxygen delivery in the body, leading to heart problems or lung damage. Smoking also increases the risk of blot clotting and can lead to diabetes and high cholesterol.
What The Ban on Menthol Cigarettes Mean For the Black Community
Sadly, these cigarettes have been disproportionately marketed to the Black community for decades. Cigarette companies used deceptive advertisements and false information. Furthermore, companies created “exotic flavors,” which lured consumers in. Eventually, in 2009 a ban stated that tobacco companies could not create sweet-flavored cigarettes.
Honestly, the tobacco industry owes its success to the Black community. They would partner up with Black companies and influencers to help push the products into the community. For instance, the Truth Initiative found that in 2020, stores in predominantly Black neighborhoods would display tobacco ads ten times more likely in white neighborhoods.
Another alarming fact is that menthol dependence is higher among Black women. The health risks have most impacted black women from poverty-stricken and rural communities. A study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that Black women facing challenging socioeconomic barriers like low income, lack of education, and health resources relied heavily on menthol and tobacco products. Many of the women smoked menthol cigarettes within the first 5 minutes of waking up in the morning.
The CDC noted that Black Americans are more likely to die from tobacco-related illnesses because they possess higher cotinine levels in the bloodstream. Cotinine forms after the chemical nicotine enter the body. Persistent exposure to the compound can lead to bronchitis, asthma, or other diseases. Social factors can also exacerbate late diagnoses of cancers, lack of health care, and inconsistent medical treatment.