>Black lawmakers seek to limit menthol cigarettes

>I meant to post this during the week, but I forgot. The story revolves around the Congressional Black Caucus trying to change a House tobbaco regulation bill to place restrictions on menthol cigarettes, which are heavily favored by African-Americans.

The 43-member caucus is taking aim at a provision in the bill that would ban candy-, fruit- and spice-flavored cigarettes but that specifically exempts menthol. In recent weeks the exemption has become the focus of controversy because menthol brands are heavily used by black smokers, who develop a large share of smoking-related cancers and other health risks.

Lorillard, the cigarette company that would lose in this proposed restriction, is mounting a counterattack against the CBC’s plan. On June 22, the company sent this e-mail to smokers of its cigarettes:

“Urgent! Urgent!,” the message said. “Congress wants to make it illegal to smoke Newports and other menthol cigarettes. Call your member of Congress now and tell them to oppose any amendment to ban menthol cigarettes.”

The Times articles notes that with or without the menthol exemption addition, the bill’s passage is not certain. Opponents of the bill are hoping that opposition from the White House and lawmakers from tobacco states can further delay passage. If the bill isn’t passed this year, overall likeliness of the bill being considered is dim.

More from the article:

Menthol is a racially charged additive, in part because of the tobacco industry’s heavy marketing of mentholated cigarettes to African-Americans since the 1950s. The flavor helps to mask the harsh taste of cigarettes and may make it easier to start smoking,

Menthol brands account for 28 percent of the $70 billion American cigarette market. While only 25 percent of white smokers choose menthol cigarettes, an estimated 75 percent of African-American smokers do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health officials have raised concerns about the possibility that menthol cigarettes might increase tobacco addiction and possibly cancer rates among black smokers.

There is also evidence that some menthol brands, including Newport, contain among the highest level of nicotine of leading cigarettes. Some experts believe that higher nicotine levels increase the addictiveness of cigarettes.

I find it troubling that menthol wasn’t included in the original bill that was passed. I’m too young to remember a big chunk of the tobacco fight back in the 80s and the 90s, so I can not recall whether menthol was discussed or not. It’s disturbing to see legislators overlook the impact menthol cigarettes have had on our community. It’s also disturbing to see the Congressional Black Caucus ignore this issue for as long as it has.

As a child of a mother who’s smoked menthol cigarettes, I have seen the devastating impact these cancer sticks have had on her health. I don’t think anyone can deny the impact cigarettes have had on public health, specifically African-America health.