Well-Being Prevention & Cures

More than a million smokers may quit if US bans menthol cigarettes, study finds

The dangers of menthol cigarettes are unique, as the added chemical lessens a smoker’s cough reflex while covering the dry feeling in the throat. That allows smokers to inhale deeper and hold smoke in longer.
iStock

Story at a glance

  • A group of researchers projected what would happen if the U.S. were to implement a ban on menthol cigarettes 

  • They found about 1.3 million U.S. smokers would quit, including 381,272 Black smokers. 

  • The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday it was proposing a ban on menthol cigarettes. 

If menthol cigarettes were to be banned in the U.S., something the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed, that could result in more than 1.3 million smokers quitting the habit all together.  

The FDA announced on Thursday that it was proposing a ban on menthol cigarettes, which makes up over one-third of the cigarette market in the U.S., saying it could significantly reduce disease and death.  

A group of researchers from Canada and the U.S. have published data that confirms that. Using Canada as a model, which banned menthol cigarettes in 2017, researchers found that a menthol ban in the U.S. would lead to an increase in quitting of 1,337,988 U.S. smokers.  

The ban would also disproportionately impact Black smokers, as 80 percent of Black smokers chose to smoke menthols compared to about 35 percent of the overall U.S. smoker population. Researchers projected that a ban would result in 381,272 Black smokers quitting. 

“Our study confirms that Canada’s menthol cigarette ban led to substantial public health benefits,” said Geoffrey T. Fong, professor of psychology and public health sciences at the University of Waterloo and lead author of the study, in a statement

“Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in Canada, the United States, and globally,” said Fong. 

A separate study by the University of Michigan also found that banning menthol flavors in cigarettes could reduce smoking by 15 percent, avoiding 16,250 tobacco-related deaths annually by 2060. 


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news. 


The FDA projected that in 2019 there were more than 18.5 million menthol cigarette smokers ages 12 and older in the U.S., with particularly high rates of use by youth, young adults and African Americans and other racial and ethnic groups. 

The dangers of menthol cigarettes are unique, as the added chemical lessens a smoker’s cough reflex while covering the dry feeling in the throat. That allows smokers to inhale deeper and hold smoke in longer, according to the American Cancer Society

On top of adding a minty taste and aroma to cigarettes, the FDA said menthol interacts with nicotine in the brain to enhance nicotine’s addictive effects. That can make it harder for people to quit smoking. 

A menthol ban carries the potential to reduce the appeal of cigarettes, particularly with young people, and could prevent future smokers. It also could entice menthol cigarette smokers to either decrease how much they smoke while increasing the likelihood that they kick the habit all together. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S. — accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year. 

Though cigarette smoking has been on the decline, with the number of smokers dropping from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 12.5 percent in 2020.  

The public health benefits of banning menthols have been well documented and studied, but there are still many critics that disapprove of a full out ban. Because menthols are most heavily used by Black Americans, many advocates say a ban would further exacerbate weak relations between law enforcement and the Black community. They argue it could also open up the opportunity for the illegal selling of cigarettes. 

George Floyd’s brother, along with the mothers of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, even sent a letter to the White House urging President Biden to understand the unintended consequences of a menthol cigarette ban. 

“Banning menthol cigarettes will only increase the value and attractiveness. While we have been told that Black smokers will not be criminalized for possessing menthol cigarettes, that does not match our experience with other cigarette policies,” said the letter. 

If a menthol ban were to be implemented, the FDA noted that it would only address manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers who manufacture, distribute or sell menthol cigarette products within the U.S.  

The agency would not prohibit individual consumption or possession of menthol cigarettes. 


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA 

MISSOURI LAWMAKERS CONSIDER EXTENDING PROPOSED BAN ON GENDER-AFFIRMING CARE TO ADULTS 

HEALTH EXPERTS URGE PARENTS TRAVELING WITH KIDS TO CONTINUE TO WEAR MASKS, CONSIDER NOT TAKING FLIGHTS 

OHIO AG WARNS OF RISE IN ‘FRANKENSTEIN OPIOIDS’ MORE DANGEROUS THAN FENTANYL 

OVER 1,000 SCIENTISTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD TAKE TO THE STREETS IN WEEK-LONG CLIMATE PROTESTS 

 
SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE PASSES BILL FOR DOCTORS TO DENY CARE THAT VIOLATES ‘CONSCIENCE’