Menthol Cigarette Debate Rages On

Editors Note: As we expected, the FDA is going to be deluged by studies conducted by organizations in support of a menthol ban.  The study described below is only one such study.  The authors of the current study agree with CRE on one point; that the earlier studies on iniatition/cessation were mixed at best. However,the authors go on to state that they have the  silver bullet study–the study of all studies on menthol.

To that claim, CRE will allow  the late trumpeter  Harry James  ( the editors’ icon)  and Helen Forrest to  respond,


Does smoking a menthol-flavored cigarette brand make it harder to quit. Some say yes, some say no.

Now, researchers at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and UMDNJ-School of Public Health add fuel to the debate. Their study finds that menthol cigarettes are associated with decreased quitting in the United States, and that this effect is more pronounced for African-Americans and Puerto Ricans.

The findings, which appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine , are being released as the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products is currently considering banning menthol cigarettes after its own Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) concluded that “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

African-Americans object

Last fall the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) formally opposed the FDA proposal to ban menthol cigarettes, charging it was a move directed against African-Americans.

“It is no secret that menthol cigarettes provide a distinctive taste that is preferred by many African Americans,” NBCC President Harry Alford said. “In making a recommendation, it is my fervent hope that the committee not make a decision based on mixed information, decades-old marketing information, inconclusive studies or preconceived notions.”

Earlier this year, a study funded by the National Cancer Institute concluded smoking menthol cigarettes made it no more likely the smoker would die of cancer.

Mixed results

Authors of this latest research note that previous studies regarding the impact of smoking menthol cigarettes and smoking cessation efforts have produced mixed results. But they say some research did not take into account the overall population of smokers, while other studies lacked focus on periods of successful smoking cessation and instead targeted attempts to quit.

“Because our evidence suggests that the presence of menthol may partially explain the observed differences in cessation outcomes, the recent calls to ban this flavoring would be prudent and evidence-based,” the authors conclude.

Some cigarette flavorings have already been banned, because they were favored by young, under-age smokers. The push to add menthol to that list picked up steam in June when a Stanford School of Medicine study called the use of menthol “predatory.”

According to that study, tobacco companies increased the advertising and lowered the sale price of menthol cigarettes in stores near California high schools with larger populations of African-American students. The lead researcher for the study said the data shows a “predatory” marketing pattern geared to luring young African Americans into becoming smokers.

The FDA, meanwhile, is currently reviewing relevant studies on the subject and is expected to submit a proposal on menthol in cigarettes in the fall.

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