Menthol, typically found and used in cigarettes, may be banned by the end of this week.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working toward putting an end to menthol being used in cigarettes, as it would significantly prevent health issues related to menthol in the Black community.
The process to ban the substance could take years, but the FDA says it is taking the step to create rules that would ban it. Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the Center for Black Health & Equity, says getting Black Americans on a healthier track regarding cigarettes and other harmful influences on the community isn’t far from reality. “The winds are definitely in our favor,” said Jefferson.
Eighty-five percent of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes. Menthol creates a cooling sensation in the throat, covering up the harsh taste of the cigarettes. NBC News reported that Black men have the highest lung cancer death rate in the country. In contrast, Black men and women are less likely compared to white Americans to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier and possibly more treatable stage.
“When you combine high rates of smoking with systematic racism in health care systems, you have a tremendous health disparity,” said Erika Sward, national assistant vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association.
The FDA has to make a decision on whether to ban menthol by Thursday, following a citizen petition that was sent to the agency back in 2013. After the FDA never responded to the petition, two groups, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health, filed a lawsuit against the FDA. Now, the association could decide before Thursday comes.