by Scout, Ph.D. Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity At The Fenway Institute
We spent a lot of our afternoon at Legacy’s Disparity Networks Plus meeting talking about menthol. Clearly we need to raise the bar on bringing awareness to this gap in the current tobacco policies. Especially in the wake of the news from Brazil that they’ve just banned all flavorings for cigarettes — including menthol — it was hard to see how the FDA and the Surgeon General’s report both seem to be sidestepping this issue. Read Gustavo’s excellent full post about this just earlier today.
One of the things that struck us again and again, is how the debate about menthol is currently being framed. We all just came from the FDA disparities listening session yesterday (roundup of that event later) and they repeated again the line that they’re waiting to see if menthol cigarettes are more addictive or more unhealthy than regular cigarettes to see if they can move.
Really? (Imagine Seth and Amy from SNL now please) Did we need to have conclusive scientific evidence that grape flavoring created more addictive cigarettes before we could ban that? Of course not, no one thinks artificial grape flavoring is addictive (are you a grape-junkie?). It’s just that menthol flavoring makes the already addictive cigarettes more palatable to kids. Just like the mint plants that menthol is made from are also used to flavor a bunch of candy and gum. Menthol is simply the spoonful of sugar that makes the yucky tasting cigarettes go down easier.