Should menthol cigarettes be banned?

By Dr. Gilbert Ross

The Daily Caller

Here’s a word of advice to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulators deciding this week whether or not to ban menthol cigarettes: Cool it. If the FDA sows this wind, I fear we will reap the whirlwind.

It was only last year that the agency prohibited the sale of all other flavored cigarettes, but would outlawing menthol be a good idea?

The FDA’s power to ban it goes back to the 2009 “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” — the law giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco. That bill contained a provision barring all flavorings except menthol.

At first glance, the decision to ban other flavorings may seem curious. After all, the only real player in the flavored cigarette market was, and is, menthol, which is smoked by about 30 percent of our nation’s 45 million adult smokers — and perhaps three-quarters of African-American smokers. The other flavored cigarettes — such as cherry, banana, and chocolate — are smoked by hardly anyone.

But the law finally giving the FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products was cobbled together over the course of some years. And, while the negotiators were such classic Washington figures as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and representatives of public health groups led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Matt Myers, also involved were executives of Altria, America’s largest cigarette company (formerly Philip Morris). How Altria got a say in the behind-the-scenes decisions about regulating cigarettes is a tale for another day, but here’s the short version: without its support, there would have been no bill at all.

So, if Altria was the one who wanted menthol spared, does it then follow that we should outlaw it? Generally, what’s good for Big Tobacco is bad for everyone else. But we at ACSH decided to investigate the question by commissioning a study to evaluate the actual health effects of menthol in cigarettes. Our peer-reviewed position paper was released earlier this year and was communicated to the responsible committee of the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), the division of the FDA established by the new law.

The results surprised us: extensive review of the relevant literature documented the absence of adverse health effects attributable to menthol in cigarettes. As compared to non-menthol cigarettes, we found no increased risk of cancer, heart disease, lung disease, or any of the myriad other debilitating or lethal effects of smoking.

Some members of the public health community, including some members of the committee charged with advising the FDA on menthol’s fate, have asserted that other “softer” (less reliably measured) factors call for a ban, such as lower quit rates and higher youth preference for menthols. Another concern is the higher rate of lung cancer among black smokers. While this discrepancy is real, the higher rate has not been found to be causally related to menthol-flavoring in cigarettes.

Why not just ban menthol anyway, given the concerns swirling about it? Who cares what the medical facts say about menthol — wouldn’t a ban just upset the cigarette-makers who addict young people to menthols, cutting into their profits? Unfortunately, that is not the major downside of a menthol ban. Given the fact that smokers who prefer menthol rarely change to a non-menthol, the more likely scenario post-ban is the development of a massive, widespread black market in contraband menthols, thanks to criminal smugglers supplying plentiful smokes to anyone who’ll pay the premium for them — no questions asked, no I.D. cards checked, no taxes paid. These specters are far from hypothetical. Fully one-half of all cigarettes purchased on the Canadian side of the Ontario-New York border are “undocumented.”

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28 comments. Leave a Reply

  1. Anonymous

    Please do not ban menthol cigarettes. I have smoked for 39 years and tried to quit twice and could not stand the coughing and stress on my heart. Also my blood pressure rose 20-30 points.

  2. Anonymous

    I have been a smoker for about 20 years, I have smoked many different brands and flavors. I personally just love the taste. I know quitting smoking is very very hard, but if these menthol cigarettes become illegal, I will quit. If for some reason I just cannot it looks like I will be smoking something illegal, which is very sad. I’m not they type of person to be doing illegal things, but I just don’t care for any other cigarettes. I think it’s a smokers right to smoke what they want. I believe smokers and non smokers all have their own rights, but it’s very sad that someone needs to feel that they want to control something like menthol cigarettes. So sad…to see what this world is coming too!

  3. JoAnn Cheely

    Everything America stands for is changing. We as adults should be able to smoke what ever brand we chose. I don’t see Alcohol being limited, why the change I think if we smoke we should be able to smoke what ever brand . I like menthol and as an American I should be able to smoke the brand I like. I don’t smoke cigars is that going to be band too, or is it that a lot of rich folks smoke them so that’s not going to happen. I say let it be.

  4. diane gay

    It’s bad enough that the price of cigarettes has skyrocketed while alcohol prices have remained the same forever , ow they want to take away my right to smoke menthol cigarettes. enough is enough time to stop the government from playing big brother.

  5. Anonymous

    why banned menthol cigarettes if people want to banned this they are crazy. do you guys buy people cigarettes no. So why is this a issue it shouldnt be your not gonna stop people buying cigarettes that just crazy. we have rights and our right is to smoke what ever brand we want too. when you start buying them then you have something to complain about.What is this world coming to its just outragous leave us smokers alone bad enough the cost of them keep going up but ill still buy menthol cigarettes.

  6. Anonymous

    Ok enough is enough!!! To band the prouduction of menthol cigarettes would be just like you are taking away an enjoyment that i have chosen for myself. There are more important things you should be waisting time to take care of. Why don’t you take care of the illegal drug use, the making of drugs ilegally, and the healthcare for those who need it. We decide if we want to smoke and what kind we want to smoke. So find something more important to do with this wais of time.

  7. Anonymous

    leave us smokers alone! we like menthols and we should have a choice. i pay good money for cigarettes and should be able to have a choice

  8. Mike Splitt

    I have bin smoking Newport 100’s for about 25 years and I think that we have right to smoke what ever brand that we wont to the FDA should have no say on it.
    It is bad enough that we can’t smok in bars, in your car if there is someone under 16 years old soon they will say that we can’t smoke in your home it has gone far enough so they should keep there nose out of it and let us kill are sleff’s the way we wont to

  9. Anonymous

    Hasn’t the government taken away enough of our rights? Cigarettes are legal, menthol is legal. Drinking alcohol causes drunk driving, marijuana causes delayed reflexes. The only people we are hurting is ourselves, which is OUR CHOICE – OUR RIGHT. I’ve been smoking the majority of 25 years. I’ve tried to quit – even under Doctors care, my own doctors (yes, plural) have told me to quit trying – my stress level is too high. Think of how many of us would end up purchasing menthol cigarettes on the black market. Then, how would the government get their “tax” money?

  10. Anonymous

    I’m so sick tired of the government taking things away. First they stop smoking in public places. Now they want to take the menthol out of the cigarette. The first thing they tax when in need of money is the cigarettes. Where are the smoker rights? Everyone gets what they want but the smoker. This is so wrong the way government treats the smokers. Government need to set down and leave the smokers alone. We should have rights as well as the non-smokers.

  11. susan

    i do not want my menthol cigarettes restricted or ban due to the fact that our president is a smoker and so is a lot of other politicians the politics should stay out of this because a politician is nothing more then a schemer or a opportunist and they need to leave my menthol cigarettes along. i believe what. they need to be doing is stop giving all our money to the wealthy to keep their job or to other countries for wmd, when we here in this country is doing so bad.

  12. Nancy Davenport

    Why ban menthol cigarettes? If a person love menthol cigarettes,They should be able to smoke what they want.. It should be their choice, Not anyone elses…So please do not ban menthol cigarettes….Unless they gonna ban alcohol too…

  13. Anonymous

    Please do not ban menthol cigarettes. I myself am not a smoker but my husband has been for 15+ years and menthol has been the only kind that he smokes. I don’t even think it is right to ban menthol cigarettes and not non-menthol. It is the right for people to choose what kind of cigarettes they would like to smoke if it be menthol, non, smokeless, cigar. What are you going to do, ban them all? You can’t segregate and choose only one. It is not up to you what they prefer. Thank you for listening.

  14. Michael G.

    There are alot worse products out there then menthol ciggarettes!Were suppose to be living in a free country, but you guys want to band everything&anything you choose.non-menthol,alcohol,trans fat,soda,ect. are not good for you.What if I told you guys that you can’t eat or drink your favorite foods or say what you want,how would you like that!Stop the MADNESS!

  15. Jennifer Mckinnon

    I my self love menthol cigarettes and i thought this was a free country. Well, you know we have a right to say and do anything that we wont, as long as it’s leagel and not hurting anyone. Now if im the only one being hurt or effected in any way that’s my biesness and not anyone elses. Now if the TPSAC has a problem with me saying all this then maybe they should leave all us hard working citations of this so called great country alone.

  16. Lisa M.Melchione

    I think the Goverment is getting way out of control at this point, We fight for freedom, Freedom of All Kind, The young man and women who do choice to smoke over in Iran and Irac, the Govement doesn’t have a problem with that, you want people to leave longer, ban drugs, Alcohol, porn on young children, I think the FDA, should continue to adhere by our forefathers of this Great Nation and leave The Choice to the people, who have gracefully gave up the sons and daughters to fight for this Country..We dersere our freedom of Choice.
    If the FDA, DOES STILL NOT AGREE WITH THIS, THEY BETTER HAVE A BACK OF PLAN, WHEN PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO PROTEST, REBELL AND DETOX….Just what we need, and another detox center for the goverment will have to pay for. And to think, they are concidering legalizing Pot….What a joke this country is becoming….

  17. Ronald McDonalds

    This is getting really out of control, contol being the key word here. First the issue here should be is the flavor of what anyone is smoking offending or physically hurting anyone else ? Wasn’t it enough to put the smokers out in the streets and now that’s even questioned by some , give an inch take a mile. I’m sure there’s alot of things I can come up with that offend me personally and some could probably be proven to be harmful, aside from all the other things we don’t talk about that are killing people. I say ,”Get A Life”, and leave mine alone. I think I should choose what flavor I want to tatse and if it’s o.k. with the rest of the world I like to choose how to live my life. Well enough said on this subject , it unfortunately already has been a big waste of valuable time. It makes me feel like I should have a drink , that’s healthier, right, whatever brings the money, right,? Yes, maybe a drink , a fat filled burger and then a stinky cigarette, oh, so digusting. I can think of alot worse things going on in this world !

  18. Juliette

    Everybody knows smoking cigarettes is not good and isn’t the healthiest habit. Smoking cigarettes is it legal and a rigjt that we have as united states citizens. let us the smokers deal with any possible repercussions. I have always thought just put information out there from the fta and and label the cigarettes “smoke at your own risk”. There, done, very simple. Do not ban menthol cigarettes. Let us, the smoking population, decide, whether right or wrong in “your” opinion. Hey, while you are at it

  19. Juliette

    Please do not ban menthol cigarettes! It is our choice as citizens of the U.S to make our own decisions, whether right or wrong, good or bad. The information is out there and “the powers that be” can ad as much as they want. Just put on the pack “use at your own risk. Leave us alone. I wasn’t aware it was the early 1930s and I was in the time of prohibition. While your at it, dan potato chips and ice cream and on the other on healthy stuff in the world .

  20. Rebecca Block

    I agree STRONGLY with all these other tax paying Americans! This country which as a child I thougt was the greatest, is really starting to worry me. All of the laws and bans and taxes directed at smokers in general (now just the menthol smokers) being targeted while leaving the drunks, etc alone. FREE Country my A**! SAD, VERY VERY SAD

  21. Anonymous

    Today Feb. 10, tune in to, they are having a live discussion about the proposed ban on menthols. Also, find the number to your congressmans office and call them. we vote him into office and when our tax revenues that pay for coordinated childcare, healthcare and education are lost because of this ban, we will vote him out im sure. so ask him to please write a letter to the fda further protecting our freedom of choice. We have 15 days to flood their office with calls!

  22. Kerry

    I don’t think its right that they ban menthol cigarettes . I been smoking menthol for years and i dont want to quit at the moment !! It’s not fair to us that are over the age 18 and we smoke menthol .. How come you don’t do anything about alcohol ?? There has been alot of people that died of drinking and driving , so why don’t you ban alcohol ?? Its just not fair to us if you ban them … Change the box if you have to !!! We pay taxes so why can’t we smoke what we want ??

  23. Anonymous

    we should we have to give up our menthol cigarettes ,like they say in the letter ALOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO SMOKE MENTHOL ok thats not our problem, there parents should have control of there children, why do we have to pay the price of young people. they should pusue the parents more .like if the get cought with cigarettes give them fines like they do loud music or drinking and dont make no sence.there has to be another way around this dont punish the loyale tax payers punish yourselfs for being so bumb ,if something was going to kill us like menthol, it wouldve done it by now ,come on i want to see some action ban alcohol for a change it will save lives

  24. Sick of Control Freaks!

    This is just crazy…let’s not forget that we are American’s firstly. At this rate it’s certain that we are heading straight into communism. People come on, we are adults. I work in probation and parole. Kids smoking cigarettes should be the least of our worries. Getting them not to be METH heads is the biggest problem. If the government has to crack down on something…Geeez it needs to be drugs! And I don’t even smoke cigarettes anymore. If anything needs to be regulated it needs to be the 4ooo. chemicals they lace them with. Plain old cigarettes isn’t what’s hard to kick, it’s the drugs they put in them! I’m outraged that with all the real crime in the world that smoking a cigarette is even an issue! Next I would think, aside from drugs issues, that we would be more concerned with pollution! Just think of all the government has their hands in, telling adults what they must do. We must wear a seat belt, we must not drive and talk on the phone. We can’t purchase happy meals for our children because of a toy inside! We have to wear a helmet, and now we don’t have to wear one! We can’t smoke legal cigarettes, yet no real punishment for Meth, and or other illegal drug users and or abusers. And the list goes on. Vote these power hungry animals out of our system before it’s too late!

  25. Anonymous

    do worry the government not going to ban menthol cigarette because they don’t care about nothing but the tax money they make off the cigarette company.

  26. Kimberly Chandler

    This is the most stupid ban I have ever heard of!! I am woman who is white by the way and I been smoking menthol cigarettes for 43 years. You say you’re doing this to save black lives really? How about doing something about guns who are killing black people faster than any flavor cigarette. Just take a look a the grocery store Tops in Brooklyn on 5/15/22. Guns killed those black Americans not menthol cigarettes. And if your other argument is teenage smoking it starts with teenagers vaping if they can’t get a vape they will smoke cigarettes but they prefer vaping. The vaping is what is causing teenagers to smoke cigarettes. Why is it as an adult American I have no right to choose the flavored cigarette I prefer to smoke. You have taken away enough of our smoking rights. Just to let you know taking away my menthol cigarettes will not make me quit smoking. I will by non menthol cigarettes or by my menthol off the neighborhood drug dealer. Never went to a drug dealer in my entire life but I guess your stupid bans are going to put me into that environment. This is a violation of my civil right as an American to smoke whatever cigarette I choose to smoke away from me. I am hurting no one by smoking a menthol cigarette but myself and its my choice not yours. I think all smokers against this ban should file a class action lawsuit for our civil rights being taken away by the government. Go work on important issues like Gun laws, voting rights, gerrymandering, hate groups, white supremacists, to help black people who you are targeting with this irresponsible ban. If you want the teenagers off cigarettes get rid of vaping since that’s the gateway where the teenagers are starting then turning to cigarettes. It is from vaping. The FDA has not thought this through at all and haven’t considered talking to actual smokers. They just think this is a great idea but no it’s a stupid idea and you are taking away my rights to smoke a menthol cigarette. You are targeting the blacks not protecting them. This is a racist ban as far as I am concerned. The government has so many actual important things they can be doing but the important things aren’t getting done because they are putting in all their time in trying to impose bans that there is no need for. Go do something that really needs to be done and get your paws off my menthol cigarettes. Your asinine ban will fail!!! Disguted American voter here!!!!

  27. Disgusted American voter!!

    If you ban menthol cigarettes then make sure to ban alcohol so drunk drivers stop killing people, stop making Marijuana legal, make vaping illegal, fix gun laws, ban white supremacists and hate crimes against blacks, hold police accountable when they kill black people for just a traffic stop. This is just one more racist law against black people. Why don’t you fix voting rights for black people, along with the gerrymandering that will help too. But now you’re too busy targeting black peoples rights for a menthol cigarette. This is racial profiling and it should be talked about for what it really is. We smoking Americans have rights!! But the government keeps taking away every right a smker has. This is an unlawful and in infringing on my American rights!!!

  28. James

    Better not to smoke at all

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