The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering banning menthol cigarettes following a recent report, from its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, that the cigarettes are extremely popular among African Americans, the poor and young.
About 19 million Americans smoke menthol cigarettes, according to CNN. The FDA already has banned other types of cigarettes, including flavored beedies, cloves, and cigarettes with vanilla, peppermint and spices, to discourage teenagers from smoking.
CNN notes that while sales of menthol cigarettes in the U.S. have risen between 4 and 5 percent the past decade, sales of most regular cigarettes have decreased during the same period. Newport and KOOL are the two most popular menthol brands.
According to a report by Lorillard, which manufactures Newport cigarettes, if menthol cigarettes were banned, most current menthol smokers would turn either to black markets for menthol cigarettes or to non-menthol cigarettes in response to the ban. However, CNN reports that a study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) study found almost half of African-Americans who smoke menthol cigarettes said they would quit if the cigarettes were banned.
Studies published last November in the journal Addiction, which were funded by the NCI, suggest that menthol cigarettes could be more harmful than non-menthol cigarettes.
The FDA is expected to complete its evaluation of menthol cigarettes by this fall.