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This debate is of particular significance to Black Americans because menthol cigarettes have been aggressively marketed to our community. As a result, 75 percent of African-American smokers say they prefer menthol cigarettes, and our community suffers disproportionately from smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer and heart disease. Click here to get help quitting smoking. – NewsOne Staff

From the NY Times:

For the cigarette industry, the menthol debate is about to flare up again.

The new federal advisory board for tobacco regulation plans to meet for the first time Tuesday in Washington. Topping the agenda is one of the most contentious, and racially charged, health issues that Congress deferred last year when it empowered the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco for the first time.

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The question: what to do about menthol flavorings in cigarettes, which account for almost a third of the nation’s $70 billion cigarette market?

Opponents of smoking, seven former secretaries of health and many members of Congress argued for an outright ban of menthol in the tobacco law last year. They said that the flavoring, which cools and masks the harsh taste of cigarettes, was used as a lure for young smokers while also being marketed to black smokers, who have the highest rates of smoking-related disease.

But when the issue threatened to split the bill’s coalition of backers — including the industry giant Altria, which owns Philip Morris — Congress passed the issue on to the F.D.A. and gave it a two-year deadline to propose new regulations.

So it is no coincidence that menthol will be the first matter taken up by the F.D.A.’s new Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee when it begins a two-day meeting on Tuesday.

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