The Biden administration will propose canceling (banning) menthol cigarettes because they attack more black people than white people.
Menthol cigarettes are racist. Regular flavored cigarettes don’t kill as many black people as menthol cigarettes and will henceforth be canceled. Because black people will ever only smoke menthol cigarettes and never smoke regular flavored cigarettes, right?
On menthol, African American health groups and researchers say it is clear that Blacks have been disproportionately hurt by the cigarettes, which studies show are more addictive and harder to stop using than non-menthol cigarettes. In the 1950s, only about 10 percent of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes. Today, that proportion is more than 85 percent, three times the rate for White smokers. African Americans die of tobacco-related illnesses, including cancer and heart disease, at higher rates than other groups, according to studies.
I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day most of my adult life and I can tell you without hesitation or qualification that anyone who believes canceling one kind of cigarette will get people to stop smoking should be fired for rank stupidity.
It’s painfully — and laughably — obvious that whoever came up with this bright idea was never addicted to cigarettes or tobacco in their lives. When smokers want — think they absolutely need — a cigarette, they are not going to care one iota what flavor it is. They will smoke corn silk if that’s all you’ve got.
The administration also is poised to say it will seek to ban menthol and other flavors in mass-produced cigars, including small cigars popular with young people, according to administration officials familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss it publicly.
It could be years before such bans would take effect, but the administration’s announcement is likely to be hailed by antismoking organizations as a critical and long-overdue step in curbing tobacco use and improving public health. Despite sharp declines in smoking in recent years, tobacco use remains a leading source of illness and death in the United States and worldwide, especially among people of color.
If I were smart, I’d start buying menthol cigarettes now — by the case — because once that ban goes into effect, the black market for menthols will make me fabulously wealthy.
Unlike many of the administration’s plans, a ban on menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars does not require congressional approval. But the FDA first must put out proposed rules and consider public comments. Any final regulation banning menthol cigarettes would almost surely be challenged in court by the industry, which has repeatedly sued the FDA to try to block anti-tobacco regulation.
The administration is still considering another long-sought goal of antismoking activists: requiring tobacco companies to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels. But it will not announce action on that issue this week, said the people with knowledge of the situation.
It’s even more ludicrous to advocate for lowering the nicotine levels in cigarettes. Studies by anti-smoking advocates have shown that “Light” cigarettes actually lead to people smoking more cigarettes a day in order to get their nicotine “fix” at the same level. There’s no evidence that lowering nicotine levels will lead to fewer smokers or lower cigarette intake.
What the government will never do is ban all cigarettes for all time — even for “the children.” More important than children to the government are the tax dollars taken in from selling a product that hits poor black Americans the hardest. The fact that banning cigarettes would also lead to a new era of empowering gangs and other criminals doesn’t help the case for an outright ban.
Smoking seems to bring out the absolute worst in activists. They lose all sense of proportion and the reasoning centers of their brains lock up — more than usual, anyway.