Menthol Madness

A proposed FDA ban on menthol cigarettes is being hailed as a victory for health and civil rights advocates both. Because methols are particularly favored by Black American smokers (85% use menthols), 40,000 of whom die annually of smoking related illnesses. A rate higher than for whites, who tend to smoke less.

A local newspaper commentary favoring the ban says “[t]he history of menthol cigarettes is a history of racial injustice,” and lashes the tobacco industry, opposing the measure, as deceptively self-interested. And it’s true it has aggressively marketed methols to Blacks in particular.

We’ve long known that tobacco is unhealthy, yet it remains legal. Are menthol cigarettes more unhealthy than regular ones? No! Nothing makes menthols, puff for puff, more dangerous. The problem is that they’re more pleasurable, hence people smoke more. Especially Blacks.

So the government wants to tell them: you can’t smoke menthols, which you prefer, but can only smoke regular cigarettes, which you like less. That’s how we’re protecting your health!

Talk about racial injustice. Remember how crack cocaine (popular among Blacks) entailed much harsher penalties than powdered stuff (favored by whites)? Here it’s the product favored by Blacks being outlawed, while the version mostly used by whites remains perfectly legal. And as if Blacks aren’t already disproportionately incarcerated, how many will be jailed for violating a menthol ban?

We seem to realize that banning tobacco and alcohol won’t fly, even though they’re more dangerous than many other substances we do outlaw. Now we’re going to ban a tobacco product on grounds of popularity. The whole picture makes no sense. Nobody should be punished for their personal choice to use any of these things.

2 Responses to “Menthol Madness”

  1. butimbeautiful Says:

    Presumably it’s the cigarettes that are illegal in this scenario, not the people smoking them. But yeah I agree, let people kill themselves with stuff if they really want to. Eating is not banned after all and that kills you, especially if it tastes nice

  2. Lee Says:

    The FDA announcements are about protecting children who apparently are attracted by the menthol. Instead of a ban, more stringent enforcement against sales to minors might be the ticket.

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