Ban’s men­thol ex­clu­sion wor­ries health ex­perts

Smokers tend to be teens, blacks

USA TODAY US Edition - - Movies Television - By Rita Ru­bin USA TO­DAY

The Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion may have banned candy-and fruit­fla­vored cigarettes Tues­day, but some pub­lic health ex­perts still see a big hole in their ef­forts to keep teens from start­ing to smoke.

That’s be­cause men­thol, the topselling fla­vor of cig­a­rette and one in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar with teen smokers, re­mains on the mar­ket.

The Fam­ily Smok­ing Preven­tion and To­bacco Con­trol Act, which Pres­i­dent Obama signed in June, au­tho­rized the FDA to ban all fla­vors of cigarettes ex­cept men­thol.

The act re­quired the FDA to cre­ate a To­bacco Prod­ucts Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, which will sub­mit re­ports on such ques­tions as “the im­pact of the use of men­thol in cigarettes on the pub­lic health.”

Al­though teen smok­ing over­all has de­clined, the pro­por­tion who smoke men­thol cigarettes is ris­ing — 17.5% from 2000 to 2002, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Legacy Foun­da­tion, cre­ated as a re­sult of the 1998 set­tle­ment be­tween state at­tor­neys gen­eral and the to­bacco in­dus­try. About 44% of smokers ages 12 to 17 use men­thol cigarettes, the foun­da­tion says.

“It makes no sense” to keep men­thol cigarettes on the mar­ket, says Legacy CEO Ch­eryl Heal­ton.

A 2002 study found 60% of mid­dle school smokers smoked men­thol, says sci­en­tist James Hersey with RTI In­ter­na­tional, an in­de­pen­dent re­search in­sti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “I think men­thol is eas­ier to smoke, so kids will of­ten start with men­thol.”

And Hersey’s re­search sug­gests young men­thol smokers are more likely to be ad­dicted to nico­tine than their peers who smoke non-men­thol cigarettes. But stud­ies of whether men­thol smokers find it more dif­fi­cult to quit than non-men­thol smokers have had mixed re­sults.

In a study of more than 4,000 mid­dle and high school stu­dents, Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia re­searchers Jerome Legge and Jes­sica Muilen­burg found men­thol smokers smoked more cigarettes than non-men­thol smokers.

And among men­thol smokers, blacks smoked more than whites, they re­ported last year. In the USA, about 80% of black smokers pre­fer men­thol cigarettes, com­pared with only about a quar­ter of white smokers.

“Any pro­posed leg­is­la­tion should con­sider the spe­cial prob­lems of men­thol and its re­la­tion­ship to high cig­a­rette con­sump­tion, es­pe­cially for Af r ic an-Amer ic an ado­les­cents , ” Legge and Muilen­burg con­cluded.

But, Legge said last week, a ban on men­thol cigarettes could cre­ate an il­le­gal mar­ket for them.

By Paul Sakuma, AP

Not cool with it: Some are ques­tion­ing why men­thol wasn’t banned, too.

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