The FDA plans to ban menthol flavored cigarettes next year. Bring it on

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The United States Food and Drug Administration recently announced a plan to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes and flavored cigars over the next year.

The FDA “is taking urgent action” to ban these “deadly products,” she said late last month.

Bring it on. I have lost friends and family to the damn cigarette. Someone close to me is a menthol smoker for life, and I pray every day that that person will drop the sticks of cancer. You know who you are.

For decades we have been drawn to the supposed romance of smoking. Marketing slogans promise that smoking is trendy, sexy, even stylish. “You’ve come a long way, baby. “Lady be cool.” “Alive, with pleasure.”

All lies.

I see the FDA decision as a lifesaving moment, especially for people of color, the worst victims of toxic addiction.

The FDA hopes to “dramatically reduce youth initiation, increase the odds of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ + people, who are all much more likely to use these tobacco products, ”Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the FDA, said in a statement.

“Tobacco products containing menthol can also be more addictive and more difficult to stop by enhancing the effects of nicotine,” the FDA said. He cites a study that “predicted that about 633,000 deaths would be prevented, including about 237,000 deaths averted for African Americans.”

Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the FDA said, “For too long, certain populations, including African Americans, have been targeted and disproportionately affected by smoking.”

“These flavor standards would reduce the initiation and use of cigarettes and cigars, reduce health disparities and promote health equity by addressing a large and disparate source of harm.

In 2014-2015, 76.8% of non-Hispanic black adults who smoked typically used menthol cigarettes, compared to 34.7% of Hispanic adults and 24.6% of whites, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA’s announcement was applauded by some groups, including the NAACP and the American Lung Association, but was rejected by others.

The American Civil Liberties Union argues that the ban would criminalize the use of cigarettes in communities of color.

“Every state in the country, including Illinois, has laws that criminalize the unlicensed sale of tobacco products, which would mean there would be an underground market for menthol cigarettes,” said Nusrat Choudhury, chief legal officer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

“Because there are so many people using these cigarettes who are people of color, it leaves them open to police checks and encounters which can escalate and cause harm,” she told WTTW- TV last week.

She cited the case of Eric Garner, the black man killed by New York City police after he was arrested for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets.

The ACLU calls for a public awareness campaign on the harms of smoking and a review of how the proposed ban would affect law enforcement.

Why assume that black people will engage in criminal activity to keep their menthol fix? Cigarettes extinguish many more blacks than rogue police.

As the COVID pandemic reminds us, people of color have suffered deeply from health inequalities.

And “available research suggests smokers are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 outcomes and dying,” according to the World Health Association.

As cigarette sales fall, we are making progress towards reducing cigarette consumption. An FDA ban would be another welcome highlight in this coffin.

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