A federal advisory board recently met to determine what to do about the sale of menthol cigarettes, which are heavily marketed to blacks who have the highest rates of smoking-related diseases.
The advisory board of the Food and Drug Administration began meeting on Tuesday in Washington to weigh the health risks of "menthol flavorings in cigarettes, which account for almost a third of the nation's $70 billion cigarette market,'' according to an article in The New York Times. Some health advocates have called for an outright ban of the product, whose allure is that it hides the taste of cigarettes.
The issue is important to the African American community because menthol brands have long been favored by 75 percent of black smokers, the article says. And African Americans who smoke menthol cigarettes may be less likely to quit than those who smoke regular cigarettes, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey-School (UMDNJ) of Public Health, which was published by The Medical News.
"Historically, tobacco companies have targeted minority populations when marketing menthol cigarettes,'' Cristine Delnevo, Ph.D., director of the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, said in an interview for The Medical News. "Although whites and non-whites have similar smoking prevalence rates, the fact that non-whites are more likely to smoke menthols, and those who smoke menthols are less likely to quit, could explain why minority populations continue to suffer disproportionately from tobacco-caused disease and death.''
But representatives from three major cigarette companies testified before the panel last week that menthol does not make cigarettes more harmful. The F.D.A.'s advisory board is still debating the matter. Stay tuned.