Brazil Leading The World in Tobacco Control By Banning The Sale Of Flavored Cigarettes Including Menthol

Gustavo Torrez
Program Manager
Brazil Leading the World in Tobacco Control
 The Brazilian Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (National Health Surveillance Agency, Anvisa) announced its decision on Tuesday to ban the sale of flavored cigarettes across the country.

The agency is banning all additives in cigarettes that create flavors like menthol, honey, cherry, tutti-frutti and chocolate, saying the additives used are what lure young people to start smoking in the first place.

Interestingly, tobacco industry representatives are also in favor of banning these additives that create flavored cigarettes (whats the catch you ask), they wanted to continue producing menthols, saying there is no scientific proof that substances in that particular flavor make cigarettes more addictive. Tobacco Control advocates can agree that menthol is a huge issues here in the States and that a menthol ban would greatly benefit public health and communities severely impacted by menthol tobacco use and help to curb youth smoking rates.

Flavored cigarettes can still be exported out of Brazil to be sold elsewhere, and sugar can still be added to Brazilian-made cigarettes and those imported into the country. The tobacco industry will have 18 months once the decision is officially published to remove their flavored cigarettes from the national market, and 24 months to pull other flavored tobacco products from shelves. Hopefully there will be evaluation early on to see the effects the ban, and the the impact it has on the young people of Brazil.

We all know that the tobacco companies have long targeted specific populations with menthol and flavored cigarettes, which can be seen by the high rates of menthol use among youth, African Americans, Latinos and LGBT populations. Next time you go to your local corner store do a brief evaluation of the tobacco advertisements and product placement and I can almost guarantee that menthol advertisements and placement  is more predominant over other products. Even more so in communities of color.

According to the American Lung Association, “Use of menthol cigarettes is disproportionately high among African Americans. Almost 84 percent of African Americans smokers aged 12 years or older reported smoking a mentholated brand of cigarette compared to 24 and 32 percent of their Caucasian and Hispanic counterparts, respectively.”

According to Legacy, “33.9% of current smokers smoke menthols and an astonishing 82.6% of African American smokers smoke menthols.  In addition, a disproportionate number of Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and multiracial smokers smoke menthols compared to white smokers.”  (see graph on right)

According to a report from the National LGBTQ Young Adult Tobacco Project (PDF), 71 percent of LGBT youth who smoke cigarettes smoke menthol cigarettes.

From a study at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, “Overall, menthol smoking was more common among females and young adults, ages 18 to 24. Menthol smoking varied considerably by race/ethnicity; among blacks, 71.8 percent smoked menthols, which is significantly greater than whites (21 percent) and Hispanics (28.1 percent). However, among Hispanics there were wide variations. Menthol smoking was more common among those of Puerto Rican descent (62 percent) than among those of Mexican (19.9 percent) and other Hispanic origins (26.5 percent).” and “The study further found that menthol cigarette smoking was associated with lower levels of smoking cessation compared to non-menthol smokers, and this relationship was more pronounced among blacks and those of Puerto Rican descent.” Based on the study findings, the authors stated “Because our evidence suggests that the presence of menthol may partially explain the observed differences in cessation outcomes, the recent calls to ban this flavoring would be prudent and evidence-based”.

As you can see communities of color and LGBT communities are smoking menthol at alarming rates. We can only hope that the FDA will follow Brazils lead and ban menthol. We know the tobacco industry is going to fight a US ban on menthol and create “science” to show that there is “no scientific proof that substances in that particular flavor make cigarettes more addictive”. The thing we all know is that if the Tobacco Industry fights hard for something there is obviously a reason for that and we cannot let the tobacco industry win. We need to ban together and fight this issue, and support efforts to regulate/ban menthol use for the health of our communities.


Network presence at 2nd Menthol Conference

Hi,  reporting from the 2nd Menthol Conference hosted by NAATPN in Washington D.C.

Lots of interesting information given on the first day here that isn’t specific to LGBT  but maybe of general interest.

1.  Role of menthol and increased health risks –to date the scientific data does not support higher rates of disease (cancer, heart disease, etc.) associated with use of menthol cigarettes.  The same health risks associated with smoking remain with use of menthol cigarettes. Menthol is not a safer brand.

2.  Menthol is associated with deeper inhalation which increases the amount of nicotine received while smoking fewer numbers of cigarettes per day.  This has implications for lower income and young smokers where access to cigarettes are limited due to cost.

3.  Menthol has been shown to be the initiation flavor for youth.  The level of menthol is manipulated for various types of smokers.  For brands targeted toward younger smokers, menthol levels are milder to mask the harsh taste of tobacco.  Menthol levels are increased for brands targeted toward older and more chronic smokers.

4.  Use of menthol products vary by demographic groups. African Americans use at the highest levels followed by Latinos.  However, women more likely to use than men.  Young and new smokers use menthol brands.  Low income smokers also more likely to use menthol.  No data is available for LGBT communities.

5.  Targeting – there has been very relentless targeting of menthol among African Americans.  “The Africanization of menthol”.  However, there is also targeting in Latino and Asian communities.  Use of menthol is increasing in these communities.

6.  Smoking cessation – the use of menthol cigarettes is associated with more difficulty in quitting.

7.  In 2009 FDA outlawed the manufactoring of flavored cigarettes because of greater preference by youth.  However, menthol was exempted from that legislation.  Due to activism by the AA community and other anti-tobacco advocates the FDA has agreed to review the data associated with menthol with the possibility of banning menthol.

8.  Marketing experts discussed how regulations regarding advertisement of flavored cigs. can be easily “worked around.”  Terms like “frost”, “ice”, “purple haze”  and packaging colors can be used and will not be covered under the FDA acts.

9.  Cheryl Healton (spelling) from the Legacy foundation has been the only presenter to mention lgbt.

O.k., all for now.  alicia.