Editorial: It’s time for menthols to go up in smoke | Notice


U.S. health regulators pledged last week to try to ban menthol cigarettes, a move that would be an important victory for Americans’ health.

The lingering flavor has infuriated tobacco control advocates, who point to research that menthol’s numbing effect masks the harshness of smoking, likely making it easier to start and harder to quit.

Mint cigarettes are popular with young people and minorities, especially black smokers, 85% of whom smoke menthols. This compares to about a third of white smokers.

One could argue that smoking is a personal choice and that the government should not intervene. However, cigarettes are a unique product in that they are made with the aim of making the user addicted. A key illustration of this is that first-time smokers rarely find cigarettes to taste or feel good.

Anyone who remembers their first puff of a cigarette probably remembers a lot of coughing and maybe nausea. Yet many soon find themselves looking for another.

Some of the chemical additives in cigarettes serve no other purpose than to increase their addictive quality. Some are called “processing aids,” which means that they increase the body’s ability to absorb nicotine, the addictive drug in tobacco.

Any smoker or former smoker is likely to be painfully aware of the need to budget for cigarettes, even when money is tight.

The tobacco industry once attempted to portray smoking as glamorous, but today sales and marketing target poor, working-class areas.

The bottom line is that smoking is an addiction that masquerades as an indulgence. This addiction has taken its toll on health care costs and on human life.

It’s time to tackle this problem with as much commitment as any other drug addiction epidemic.

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