Would Banning Menthols Help People Quit Smoking?

A new survey says that 40 percent of smokers say yes.

Posted: 09/25/2012 04:49 PM EDT

Ask any smoker and they’d tell you it’s hard to beat the habit. 

For African-Americans, BET.com reported, it’s a particularly harder feat. It’s hard to stop smoking. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while 59 percent of Black smokers tried to quit, only 3.3 percent actually succeeded — the lowest success rate among all races and ethnicities.

Those low rates may be explained by the fact that more than 80 percent of African-Americans smokers smoke menthols [PDF] — a minty tasting form of cigarettes that are harder to quit. Also, Big Tobacco spends millions on advertising these types of cigarettes specifically to our community. 

So what do smokers think will help? 

A new survey conducted by the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies (SI) at Legacy found that 40 percent of menthol smokers say that banning menthols could help them quit

"Many menthol smokers are motivated to quit, but may have a more difficult time doing so than regular cigarette smokers," said Jennifer Pearson, a research investigator for the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Legacy, and lead author of the study. "If the FDA were to ban menthols, hundreds of thousands of smokers might get that extra push they need to make the life-saving decision to quit smoking rather than switching to a non-menthol brand." 

The study also found that among the general population of non-smokers, this issue isn’t as important. Only 20 percent of them opposed a ban; 28.8 percent approved a ban; and a whopping 51.9 percent had no opinion whatsoever. 

Researchers hope that this data will usher in a menthol ban by the U.S. Food Drug Administration (FDA). Just last year, the Schroeder Institute published a study that suggested that banning menthols “might prevent up to 600,000 smoking-related premature deaths by 2050, a third of those among African-Americans.” 

Now, it’s important to point out that the many health experts believe that menthols do not increase a person’s chance of dying and are not exposed to more toxins compared to non-menthol cigarettes. But over the years there has been growing data that smoking menthols may double someone’s risk for stroke. 

Here’s what we know for sure: Black Americans account for 12 percent of the 46 million adult smokers in the U.S., and while we smoke less than whites, we are more likely to die of lung cancer

So what do you think? Will a ban on menthols improve our health?

To learn more about how to quit smoking, go here

BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.  

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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