Mothering Black America Or Mistreating Blacks?

Published August 13, 2008

Tim Jones captures the inconsistencies that abound in recent Congressional action to allow the Food & Drug Administration to “regulate” chemicals, including candy flavors, in cigarettes. (“Blacks Seen As Targets of Menthol,” August 13)

In March 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jointly released a study that found, “The epidemiological literature to date does not indicate that menthol cigarettes confer a risk for cancer above that from nonmentholated brands. Rather, menthol cigarettes appear to be as hazardous as nonmenthol brands.” So blacks, who smoke 80 percent of menthol cigarettes, are not exposing themselves to inordinate cancer risks compared to other cigarette smokers.

Everyone seems to just “know” that innocent uninformed irresponsible youth must be protected from “sweet” tobacco products that remind them of candy and lure them into the perils of a tobacco habit. But do Chicago blacks, like children, really require “protection” from cigarette manufacturers determined to addict them to tobacco by offering them “cool” peppermint flavor in their smokes?

With FDA backing, civil rights leaders may join the movement to further criminalize and restrict a legal product and demand that stores stop selling the cigarettes preferred by blacks … in order to protect them from themselves. That’s just wrong.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager at The Heartland Institute.