A nationwide ban on menthol in tobacco products would not only help millions of people stop smoking, it would also bring wide applause, new findings show. 

More than 43% of U.S. adult smokers use menthol cigarettes, according to a study published in February in Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Adolescents, people of color and low-income people use the products the most.

Use of menthol cigarettes is highest among Black smokers, 81% of whom use the products compared to 34% of white smokers, said the study, which analyzed research on menthol bans in the U.S. and other countries.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed banning menthol from cigarettes in a rule released April 2022, but the measure has not come to fruition. APHA and other public health advocates have urged FDA to enact the ban, which would also end flavors in cigars. cigarette butts

"Our review of the evidence suggests this delay is causing harm to the health of the public, especially among Black communities,” Sarah Mills, PhD, the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “Contrary to industry claims, studies find no increase in the use of illicit products. A menthol cigarette ban would provide the greatest benefits to Black people who smoke."

Enforcing a ban on menthol cigarettes not only holds the potential to address racial disparities in tobacco use, but also serves as a critical step in reducing the overall death rates associated with smoking, said Mills, an assistant professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Previous research found that a ban on menthol cigarettes could reduce smoking rates in Black communities, who were long targeted by marketing from the tobacco industry, by more than 25% within a span of five years. The ban could save as many 654,000 lives over 40 years, including 255,000 Black Americans.

Menthol cigarettes mitigate the harshness of smoking through their cooling effects, making it easier for young people to start smoking. The flavoring can also make it harder for people to quit.

Critics of menthol bans argue that smokers will turn to non-menthol cigarettes, but research indicates the opposite. The new study predicts the U.S. could see a 16% overall reduction in smoking within five years of implementing a federal menthol ban.

Many Americans support the ban. According to a poll from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 58% of Americans support FDA’s proposed rule, with 29% opposed. Among Black Americans, 62% are in favor of banning the products. 


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