The FDA rightly moves to extinguish menthol cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed banning menthol-flavored cigarettes, potentially beginning in 2024. It’s a tragedy that it is taking this long, but it’s never too late to save a life — or in this case, potentially hundreds of thousands of lives.

It’s been 13 years since the Tobacco Control Act kiboshed flavored cigarettes. No longer could manufacturers dress up deadly nicotine-laced cancer sticks by infusing them with candy, herb, spice, cola, coffee or fruit flavors. But there was a loophole, or smoke ring, large enough to drive a fleet of hearses through: menthol, the single most popular flavor, enjoyed especially among Black smokers.


Why? Ironically, in the name of social justice. Because menthol was the product of choice for about 85% of Black smokers — making it the prime reason why nearly 50,000 Black American lives are lost every year to smoking-related diseases — the likes of Al Sharpton fought a ban. Take it off the market, said the reverend, and Black smokers will resort to the black market. There’d be more Eric Garners selling loosies, confronted and choked to death by police.

With a straight face, he and others ignored the indisputable fact that the lives put at risk in this way would pale in comparison with those surely killed by lung cancer and heart disease if still hooked on menthol cigarettes.

Finally, the FDA is prepared to say a flavor is a flavor is a flavor, whether or not it’s the favorite of a particular ethnic group, and whether or not it creates a cooling sensation in the throat when drawn down into the alveoli. (Indeed, that quality of menthol arguably makes it more, not less, dangerous by effectively encouraging smoking.)

The FDA also wisely proposes barring flavored cigars and cigarillos, to which youngsters flocked when flavored cigarettes got yanked. Now, how about being sensible about vaping, which is a far less deadly alternative — and, when used responsibly by adults, can be a pragmatic quitting aid?

— New York Daily News

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