“The fact that 85 percent of Black people who smoke cigarettes smoke menthol cigarettes, it’s not a mistake. It’s not happenstance. It’s not culture. It’s not a preference for the taste. It is a concerted marketing effort by industry that infiltrated these communities to peddle these drugs, and they’ve done so successfully,” said Mignonne Guy, an associate professor and former chair of the Department of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in an NBC News report.
The report also stated, “a ban on menthol cigarettes has been in the works for more than a decade. A 2013 citizen petition prompted the Food and Drug Administration to ban menthol as a flavor in cigarettes, but rules to finalize a ban have been sluggish. In January, Brian King, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said the agency was committed to completing the rulemaking process for the ban in 2023. The FDA went on to miss its own self-imposed deadline of August. Menthol use predominantly affects people of color. Nearly 85% of Black smokers use menthols, compared to 30% of white smokers, according to the FDA. Black men and women are far less likely than white Americans to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier stage, when the disease is often more treatable. Black men have the highest lung cancer death rate in the U.S.
FDA proposed rules prohibiting menthol cigarettes.
A new report from The Hill points to the pebble in the way of progress, Black civil rights groups, causing delay in the ban, “Sharpton’s National Action Network has been among the most vocal in arguing about the consequences of a ban on Black communities, often invoking the name of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in 2014 after being confronted for selling loose cigarettes. NAN has opposed menthol bans across the country, holding town halls at prominent Black churches to talk about how menthol bans criminalize the Black community. “The National Action Network has followed the lead of Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed by police during a cigarette enforcement stop. She, Attorney Ben Crump, and others have raised concerns that this ban will lead to the unintended consequences for Black people selling loose cigarettes,” Ebonie Riley, senior vice president of the National Action Network, said in a statement to The Hill.
“There’ll always be these kinds of red herring issues,” said Yolanda Richardson, president and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids., “For one minute it was over-policing, now we’re hearing the issue is that Black men are going to be upset because they’re not going to have their menthol cigarettes. So, there’s always a way for the industry to distort the facts, and there’s always a way for them to kick up sand in the gears.”