As Americans grapple with persistent inflation, surging crime, a wide-open southern border, rising interest rates, an increase in antisemitism, a looming recession, and many other pressing problems, the Biden administration has set its sights on waging war on menthol cigarettes.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is moving forward with its rule to “prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars.”
According to the FDA, “These actions have the potential to significantly reduce disease and death from combusted tobacco product use, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., by reducing youth experimentation and addiction, and increasing the number of smokers that quit.”
Although well-intended, the FDA’s rule to ban menthol cigarettes based on the premise that removing these products from the marketplace will reduce youth experimentation and addiction to such products is rather unconvincing.
Consider. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “From 2011 to 2020, current (past 30 day) cigarette smoking went down among middle and high school students. Nearly 2 of every 100 middle school students (1.6%) reported in 2020 that they smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days—a decrease from 4.3% in 2011. Nearly 5 of every 100 high school students (4.6%) reported in 2020 that they smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days—a decrease from 15.8% in 2011.”
And, “From 2011 to 2020, current use of cigars went down among middle school students and high school students. Nearly 2 of every 100 middle school students (1.5%) reported in 2020 that they had used cigars in the past 30 days—a decrease from 3.5% in 2011. About 5 of every 100 high school students (5.0%) reported in 2020 that they had used cigars in the past 30 days—a decrease from 11.6% in 2011.”
In other words, youth smoking has decreased substantially, to the point that it is practically non-existent among today’s teenagers. This is a great thing, and should be celebrated.
However, this has not stopped the FDA from plowing forward with its decision to outright ban menthol cigarettes, which have been enjoyed for decades by adults who are well aware of the health hazards associated with smoking combustible tobacco products infused with menthol.
Among those who particularly enjoy the soothing taste of menthol-flavored tobacco products happen to be black adults. In fact, “In 2018-2019, approximately 70% of Black or African American adults 18-34 years old who currently smoked cigarettes used menthol cigarettes, compared to 39% of White adults in that same age group.”
And, “People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) who smoke are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than heterosexual people who smoke.”
Because those on the far-left constantly claim that any and all policies that have a “disparate impact” on minorities is evidence of racism, I would love to hear how this rule, which seems to almost exclusively target minority groups, is exempt from the racist tag.
Moreover, bans do not work. They never have and likely never will. Exhibit one: Prohibition. Exhibit two: The War on Drugs.
For whatever reason, a cohort of American adults enjoys smoking menthol-laden tobacco products. This will not stop simply because the government says these products must be banned. Likely, this ban will result in a booming underground marketplace for these products, which will make purchasing them more expensive and using them potentially more dangerous.
Photo by Geoffrey Gallaway. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0.