ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took further action in the war to get people to quit smoking at the end of April by announcing a future potential ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes. Banning menthol-flavored cigarettes will help prevent smoking-related health issues in unfairly targeted populations.
“No Menthol Sunday” is a campaign that brings awareness to the harm menthol cigarettes do to the Black community and it’s happening this Sunday, May 16.
A ban on menthol cigarettes would get approximately 923,000 people to quit smoking, 25% of which would be Black Americans. It would also prevent 633,000 deaths, according to studies referenced by the FDA.
“When you smoke for the first time, a traditional cigarette, it makes people cough, it makes them nauseous, and a whole bunch of people say yuck and never do that again, but with menthol, it’s a whole lot less harsh,” said St. Peter’s Hospital Community Outreach Nurse, Anne Lawton.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said menthol-flavored cigarettes are appealing to Black Americans, women, and children because of their peppermint flavor.
“It attracts younger women to smoking because they don’t want that awful smell and they don’t appreciate that harsh hit,” said Lawton.
Menthol in cigarettes creates a cooling sensation in the throat and airways when the user inhales, making cigarette smoke feel less harsh on the user. Tobacco companies market menthol cigarettes as “smoother” than other cigarettes. However, menthol cigarettes are not less harmful than other cigarettes and they are likely a greater risk to public health than non-menthol cigarettes.CDC
The vast majority, up to 90% of Black smokers, smoke menthol cigarettes. Tobacco companies have targeted young people and Black neighborhoods in marketing campaigns. A tactic that has been used for 70 years, according to the CDC.
“So our Black communities were disproportionately burdened by these marketing campaigns,” Lawton said.
Tobacco use contributes to the three leading causes of death for Black Americans: heart disease, stroke, and cancer said the CDC.
“It’s so much to blame in lung cancer, bladder cancer, head neck cancers, there are at least 16 different cancers that it plays a role in,” said Lawton.
It’s never too late to quit. Quitting can be beneficial for people who have smoked for many years or were diagnosed with cancer, Lawton added. Getting rid of the shame associated with smoking is a good starting point and realizing it takes an average of seven to 10 attempts to be successful at quitting smoking, she said.
“And what we’ve found is the five-year survival rate on lung cancer patients who stopped smoking increases by 70 percent, that’s huge,” Lawton said. “I think we need to normalize that it may take more than one try.”
Saint Peter’s Health Partners’ virtual smoking cessation program will be offered for free beginning May 17. Registration is available through Saint Peter’s website.
Quitting resources are also available through the New York State Smokers Quitline 1(866)-697-8487.