Back in 2013, The Washington Post reported that the Food and Drug Administration said “menthol-flavored cigarettes probably pose a greater risk to public health than standard cigarettes.” Today about a third of all cigarettes sold in the U.S. are menthol and research from a survey has found their use is on the rise.
The latest survey conducted during 2012-2014 shows African Americans still favor the flavor with 84.6% reaching for menthols. But “almost half of Hispanic smokers” and “almost a third of whites” are now reporting menthol cigarette smoking. The survey also found that in 2014, “more young adult smokers reported favoring menthol cigarettes over non-menthol cigarettes.”
Surveys were conducted in the time periods of 2008-2010 and 2012-2014 and then compared. Researches found teens between the ages of 12-17 “were more likely to use menthol cigarettes than smokers in any other age group during both time periods.” The largest increases went to “Hispanic smokers, as well as adult white smokers between the ages of 26 and 34,” with a 9.8% increase each.
The surveys also noted some decreases which need mention as well. While African American smokers “continued to smoke menthol cigarettes at higher rates than any other racial group,” there was a slight decline of 1.4% between the two survey time periods. Young adult, non-menthol smokers in the 18-25 age group also saw a substantial decline” from 26.9% in 2004 to 14% in 2014.”
Three years ago the FDA said the menthol flavoring made it easier to start smoking and more difficult to quit, and hoped to have a ban on the mint-flavored tobacco by the end of 2016. However, the White House Office of Management and Budget overruled the FDA in May 2016. In September “a group of Black physicians and anti-smoking advocates appealed to the president to revisit the issue” due to the high number of African Americans using menthol tobacco and the “disproportionate impact on their health.”
While standard cigarette use appears to be on a decline, menthol-flavored tobacco is holding strong or increasing, especially in certain populations such as our youth, Hispanics and African Americans. It is time to revisit the issue of banning this flavoring.
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