Cigarette Bill Treats Menthol With Leniency
By STEPHANIE SAUL
Some public health experts are questioning why menthol, the most widely used cigarette flavoring and the most popular cigarette choice of African-American smokers, is receiving special protection as Congress tries to regulate tobacco for the first time.
The legislation, which would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to oversee tobacco products, would try to reduce smoking’s allure to young people by banning most flavored cigarettes, including clove and cinnamon.
But those new strictures would exempt menthol — even though menthol masks the harsh taste of cigarettes for beginners and may make it harder for the addicted to kick the smoking habit. For years, public health authorities have worried that menthol might be a factor in high cancer rates in African-Americans.
The reason menthol is seen as politically off limits, despite those concerns, is that mentholated brands are so crucial to the American cigarette industry. They make up more than one-fourth of the $70 billion American cigarette market and are becoming increasingly important to the industry leader, Philip Morris USA, without whose lobbying support the legislation might have no chance of passage.
“I would have been in favor of banning menthol,” said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, who supports the bill. “But as a practical matter that simply wasn’t doable.” ...
Stop killing blacks with cigarettes? It's just not "doable."