Menthol flavoring in cigarettes makes them easier to inhale, which makes it easier for new tobacco users to start using tobacco products and harder for current tobacco users to quit.
Tobacco companies use marketing and products like menthol to increase addiction, and they target some communities more than others.
We see these disparities in Washtenaw County:
Our smoking rate for African American residents is higher than our county’s smoking rate (17% among African Americans compared to 11% overall).
African Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related death and disease of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.
In addition, young people prefer flavored tobacco, including menthol, which has increased their tobacco use rates:
A majority (85%) of youth e-cigarette users report using flavored products.
Nearly half of young people who have ever smoked started with menthol cigarettes.
Young people who start with menthols are more likely to become addicted.
What can be done
The Washtenaw County Health Department and health policy experts recommend a comprehensive menthol and flavor ban to prevent further harm. Research estimates that a menthol ban would save 650,000 lives over the next 40 years.
On April 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed product standards to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and to prohibit all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars.
This would place restrictions on manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers, and retailers who manufacture, distribute, or sell such products in the US. It would not make it illegal for adults to have or use these products.
The Washtenaw County Health Department supports these proposed product standards. Additionally, we are currently working as part of the M[END]THOL campaign to promote education around the tactics used by the tobacco industry to push harmful products like menthol and flavored tobacco.
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