The Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. According to the 2020 National Drug and Health Survey, 81% of black smokers and 51% of Hispanics preferred menthol cigarettes. The proposal is aimed at reducing smoking-related health problems in a community that already suffers from health inequalities. But a closer look at the data, along with experiences in countries with menthol bans, suggests that the ban may do more harm than good.
Research finds that menthol smokers consume fewer cigarettes a day. Multiple studies, including one by FDA researchers, have found no evidence that menthol cigarettes provide a higher risk of lung cancer than non-menthol cigarettes.
A large-scale prospective study of adults with racial diversity reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2011: “The findings suggest that menthol cigarettes are no more, and perhaps less, harmful than menthol-free cigarettes.” And despite claims to the contrary, a study published last April involving a large cohort of African Americans and whites living in 12 southern states recruited between 2002 and 2009 found that menthol smokers had no greater difficulty quitting. than non-menthol smokers. More significantly, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of all research on menthol cigarettes and the risk of cancer and concluded “a significantly lower risk [12 percent lower] of lung cancer is seen among menthol smokers “.
Why target menthol cigarettes if they are not more addictive than menthol-free cigarettes, associated with lower tobacco use and perhaps even a lower risk of cancer? The answer may not be to reduce adolescent smoking. Adolescent smoking is at an all-time low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the rate of adolescent smoking was 1.5%, down from 3.3% in 2020. Only 1 in 250 young people smoke daily. And the CDC reports that 60% of teens who smoke prefer menthol-free cigarettes. A recent study found that the states with the highest consumption of menthol cigarettes had the lowest rates of smoking among adolescents.
Added to this is the experience in the European Union, where menthol cigarettes were banned in 2020. Menthol smokers have found, in many cases, effective solutions, such as built-in filters for “menthol” cigarettes, menthol flavored inserts or simply adding menthol to the roll. . -Own tobacco. A recent survey found that 40 percent of menthol smokers switched to non-menthol and only 8 percent quit smoking. Importantly, 13% said they got menthol cigarettes from “other sources.” For example, Belarus is a major producer of menthol cigarettes. As with banning alcohol and drugs, banning menthol cigarettes can generate money for gangs and other clandestine traffickers. The British press reported that illicit menthol cigarettes, called “illicit targets” by users and traders, are sold under the counter in small shops. Eastern European brands such as Minsk, Fest and Queen can be purchased for the right price.
Which brings us to the next reason for challenging the ban proposed by the FDA. The ban feeds a clandestine market where peaceful voluntary transactions become crimes. It gives law enforcement another reason to interact with nonviolent people who commit these crimes without victims.
Like everyone else, the police respond to incentives. They are rewarded with arrests and convictions. Low-level traffickers in illegal substances are “low-level fruit.” They are much easier to find in dense urban centers and are less dangerous to deal with than violent criminals. Law enforcement often tracks racial or ethnic minority communities in search of crime without victims because they are “easy choices.” This is how we end up with African Americans arrested for marijuana rapes four times more than whites, even though both ethnicities use marijuana approximately equally.
Remember Eric Garner? New York City’s exorbitant taxes on cigarette packets have spawned a clandestine market for tax-free individual cigarettes, called “looses.” In 2014, police found themselves infamous with Eric Garner, 43, who was selling toys on a street corner, and the strangulation of a police officer resulted in his death while repeating “I can’t breathe.” And this happened without a ban on menthol. With menthol cigarettes most popular with blacks and Hispanics, he hopes police will focus their attention on minority communities. This can further exacerbate inequalities in criminal justice.
The best approach to smoking is harm reduction. Nicotine e-cigarettes, especially flavored cigarettes, are a proven way to reduce the harm of tobacco to those who like the sensation of smoking and the “kick” of nicotine. And flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol, are preferred by more than 90% of adults trying to quit burning tobacco.
These last two years of the COVID pandemic have provided many lessons on how public health officials can overlook the offsets and unintended consequences of their policies. Unfortunately, banning menthol cigarettes can provide another lesson. The FDA’s proposed ban on menthol could do more harm to the communities it seeks to help.
Jeffrey A. Singer practices general surgery in Phoenix, Arizona, and is a principal investigator at the Cato Institute.
Banning the sale of menthol cigarettes may do more harm than good – Press Telegram Source link Banning the sale of menthol cigarettes may do more harm than good – Press Telegram