Smokers of menthol cigarettes may soon be facing the difficult choice of either switching to regular cigarettes or kicking the habit altogether. A massive 153-page preliminary study released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week found that adding menthol to cigarettes may cause new smokers to pick up the habit more easily and also make it harder for smokers to quit. Although no ban has been put in place yet, the FDA is currently seeking input from the health community, the tobacco industry and others on possible restrictions on the minty cigarettes.
Why did the FDA conduct this study?
In 2009, Congress gave the FDA power to regulate tobacco. That year, in an effort to reduce the amount of underage smokers, Congress also enacted the Family Smoking Prevention Tobacco Control Act. It banned cigarettes with flavoring such as candy, fruit or spices. However, the law excluded peppermint-flavored menthol cigarettes, a move that angered members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). They argued that the ban unfairly targeted the exports of other countries, especially Indonesia, the primary manufacturer of clove cigarettes.
Last year, the WTO found the U.S. in violation of trade rules as a result of the ban, and ruled the U.S. should either allow imports of Indonesian clove cigarettes or ban menthol cigarettes. The deadline for that ultimatum is… today (July 25, 2013.)
All Cigarettes are Dangerous
Despite the FDA’s findings that menthol cigarettes pose a greater risk to public health than non-flavored cigarettes, let’s not lose sight of the fact that all forms of tobacco are linked to serious health risks. Cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and even smokeless products such as chewing tobacco and snuff are all hazardous to your health. Tobacco products can cause numerous forms of cancer, gum disease, stroke, coronary heart disease, and even erectile dysfunction.
“FDA: Menthol cigarettes probably pose greater health risk than standard ones” by Brady Dennis, The Washington Post, July 23, 2013.
“Preliminary Scientific Evaluation of the Possible Public Health Effects of Menthol versus Nonmenthol Cigarettes” Food and Drug Administration, July 23, 2013.