Menthol Cigarettes Lose Their Cool

African-Americans overwhelmingly want to ban them.

Posted: 05/13/2011 08:03 AM EDT
Menthol Cigarettes

They were a 20th-century cultural phenomenon. For decades, ads in Black magazines or billboards in African-American communities displayed all-together, sharply-dressed men and women in a sensuous dance pose, lounging in clubs or outside and seemingly without a care holding a menthol cigarette in their fingers or at their lips.


No more. The ads are long gone, and perhaps many of those once hip—now hacking and coughing—folks, want to ban the cigarettes that spread cancer and lung-related diseases in the Black community.


The results of a new study show that 83 percent of Blacks, and a majority of Americans, want to ban menthol in cigarettes. The report was released in the American Journal of Public Health. The research was conducted by the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC), the American Academy of Pediatrics' Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, and the American Legacy Foundation.


The report also exposes menthol cigarettes’ addictive qualities. Each menthol cigarette, the lead author of the study, Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, says was “one of the most highly engineered products ever created and each additive has a specific purpose. Menthol cigarette flavoring plays a key role in promoting smoking by numbing the throat, promoting early smoking, and allowing the smoke to go in deeper at an earlier stage of smoking."


The report lays out plainly what the tobacco companies were up to, and what anti-smoking acitivists demand to happen now. “For decades, the tobacco industry has heavily marketed menthol cigarettes to minority communities and as a result, the menthol smoking rates in those communities are disproportionately high. Our research shows that African-Americans and the general public want the simple justice of removing menthol from cigarettes," says Winickoff.


It appears that the Black community intends to sail into a new port of healthy living.


(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty)