As A Smoker, Here’s What I Think of the FDA Menthol Ban
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it will move to ban all menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
When such a ban would take effect, and whether it would impact all manufactures - including Native American Tribes - is unclear. As a current smoker of menthol flavored cigarettes for nearly twenty years now, I want to share some thoughts on upcoming ban from the FDA.
First, why? The FDA said, via CNN,
"The aim is to "significantly reduce disease and death" from using these two products.''
Well, if the intent is to significantly reduce disease and death, why not ban ALL cigarettes and cigars? Let me be clear, the choice to begin smoking in my late-teens is one I regret to this day. I am addicted and when I don't have a cigarette to start my day, or after a beer, or in many other circumstances, it negatively impacts my mood. Why? because I am addicted to the sensation, or the rush I feel when I smoke nicotine.
I say all that to give you a little perspective from where I'm coming from when I say this: Non-menthol cigarettes or un-flavored cigars are just as damaging to your health as menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars. So if the intent is the significantly reduce disease and death, THEN BAN THEM ALL!!!!
Again, I'm a smoker who is not ready to quit. If they ban menthols, I'm just gonna smoke non-menthols. It won't taste exactly the same, but it doesn't mean I'll quit. In other words, I will be at just as much a risk of developing cancer or some other disease whether I smoke the green pack, the red pack, or the white/light blue pack (Green is menthol, Red is often 'full flavor', A.K.A. unflavored, and white/light blue is 'Light').
The effort to ban menthol and flavors has more to do with teenagers or potential smokers than it does to me. And I get it, the candy and fruity flavored varieties may lure in some teens who likely wouldn't have even tried the stuff had it not been for the flavor.
I think it's quite confusing and misleading that while this ban is on the horizon, more than a dozen states including New York have legalized marijuana. I'm not against marijuana by any means. Having said that, people shouldn't forget that smoked marijuana contains many of the the same deadly carcinogens that you'll find in cigarettes, according to the American Lung Association.:
Smoke is harmful to lung health. Whether from burning wood, tobacco or marijuana, toxins and carcinogens are released from the combustion of materials. Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.4-7
And, while many of those same carcinogens and toxins exist in smoked marijuana, there is a cultural progression in this country to legalize it. I don't get the move to ban menthol while simultaneously legalizing something that carries many of the same cancer causing substances.
(This piece was updated to reflect information from the American Lung Association and a link to that data).
Please note, the FDA is not the one who has legalized pot in states where it is now legal, but I make that point to underscore the mixed messages our youth are being given. It's cultural confusion.
And, how isn't that THE SAME EXACT THING? Smoking is smoking. There's no healthy variation. Inhaling toxic smoke laden with carcinogens is still inhaling smoke laden with toxic carcinogens.
Here's the other thing, and forgive me - I'm a white guy in my mid-30's. But this excerpt taken directly from the FDA's website really bothers me:
"With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products,”
I can jump on board with the part about reducing youth initiation, as I mentioned above. Truly, if you're a teen reading this, don't ever start smoking. I promise you will never regret the decision to NOT have started.
But to address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low income populations and LGBTQ....REALLY??
Cigarettes are EXPENSIVE. Where I am in New York, it's like $12 a pack. When I started 20 years ago they costs less than $2. It's a very expensive habit/addiction.
And, while I am not a person of color, nor am I LGBTQ, if I were, I'd be offended by the suggestion that the federal government needs to intervene on my behalf to save me from myself.
Straight people and Whites more capable to care for themselves, make their own decisions, take their own risks and apparently are more equipped to fight addiction caused by nicotine, than Blacks or Hispanics or Asians, of gays, or trans??
Am I the only one who thinks communities of color should be extremely insulted by that assertion?
One of the other points to follow up on that I briefly referenced above...Native American Tribes are sovereign entities. Will this effect those tribes that manufacture cigarettes and sell them publicly, like the Seneca or Niagara nations?
If not, people are just going to buy their menthol smokes at a Native American Reservation instead of the gas station.
I do think this idea is well intentioned, but if this does pass, how long is it before Uncle Sam starts limiting the amount of sugar you can consumer in a day? Or the number of times you can go to a fast food drive thru per week? Or how many alcoholic beverages you're allowed to consumer on a Friday night at your own home?
Eliminating, or at least reducing, all of those things would make you healthier wouldn't it? And, cut down on the disease and illness they cause, right?
At what point do we allow adults to make their own decisions vs. allowing some bureaucrat in Washington to make that decision for you?
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