Is FDA right to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars?
- On Thursday, April 29, 2021, the FDA announced a ban on menthol in cigarettes and cigars within the coming year to “significantly reduce disease and death.”
- Menthol is a chemical found in peppermint plants that is used in tobacco products to reduce the “harshness and irritation” from smoking.
- According to the CDC, 34.2 million American adults were cigarette smokers in 2018. They also stated smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths resulting in over 480,000 deaths yearly.
- In 1965, the federal government mandated that all cigarette packs sold in the US must show a warning label saying that cigarettes are hazardous to health.
- A Gallup News report from 2018 revealed that one in every four Americans supports a total ban on cigarette smoking.
The FDA should not ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars for several reasons. Menthol is not more harmful than non-menthol, smoking is a personal lifestyle choice, and other lifestyle choices are just as harmful or even more harmful than smoking these things. Menthol-flavored cigarettes and cigars are not more harmful than non-menthol, so there is no just reason to ban them while non-menthol cigarettes and cigars continue to be available. Smoking, whatever the flavor preference, is a personal choice that every American adult should be able to continue to make in a democracy that cherishes freedom. The choice of Americans to smoke also benefits the economy with the high taxes levied from cigarette and cigar purchases.
Despite the continued focus on smoking as being so terribly unhealthy, the personal lifestyle choice to be obese is actually the top preventable cause of death in the United States. Other related lifestyle choices like physical inactivity from sitting all day and not getting enough sleep have been proven to be just as unhealthy or even more unhealthy than smoking. While no one in their right mind would ever advocate that smoking is a healthy personal lifestyle choice to make, smokers should reserve the right to choose it. For entities to place their focus on smokers, making them a seemingly easy target, unjustly denies them their personal choice to smoke whatever flavor they choose. This goes against the idea of freedom in our American democracy and ignores other public health concerns that are just as serious or even more severe.
The methanol flavoring of some cigarettes and flavored cigars makes smoking them enticing—you can't taste the nasty chemicals or smell the unpleasant odor of the smokable products. By banning these products, young people will be less likely to pick them up. Reducing the temptation for young people to smoke will decrease the number of people who die from smoking-related illnesses and the number of US secondhand smoke deaths. According to the CDC, 'Exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 41,000 deaths each year among adults in the United States'.
According to The Hill, the FDA stated, 'Black high school students reported past 30-day cigar smoking at levels twice as high as their white counterparts' and 'Black men have the highest rates of death from lung cancer in the country.' Hopefully the banning of these products will discourage Black youth from smoking and will lower the amount of smoking-related health issues that disproportionately affect Black communities in America.
It's not just smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke that will benefit from banning these products. Taxpayers are responsible for 60% of the cost associated with 'smoking-attributable diseases through publicly funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.'
Tobacco companies have always fought against legislation that negatively impacts their business, despite knowing the deadliness of their products. By banning these products, the FDA is finally taking the side of the people and putting our health over the monetary gain of big business. It's a promising step towards a future where the government cares more about citizens than big businesses and corporations.