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Fears over popularity of menthol cigarettes

15th March 2011

Smoking menthol cigarettes, which carry higher health risks than plain cigarettes, has become very common among minority youths in the US, according to a recent study.


The researchers also noted that menthol cigarettes were becoming popular among US teenagers in general.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that more than 80% of black adolescent smokers preferred menthol cigarettes.

The study authors pointed out that over half of US youths from Spanish-speaking minority groups also preferred to smoke menthol cigarettes.

According to data from Euromonitor International, menthol cigarettes account for nearly one-third of the US$83 billion (£51 billion) annual revenue from cigarette sales in the US.

Lorillard Inc sells the Newport brand, one of the most popular brands of menthol cigarette in the US, and any ban or restriction placed upon menthol cigarettes would harm Lorillard's business, and the company has filed a lawsuit against the FDA.

The FDA report also said that there was a significant increase in the number of white youth aged 12 to 17 who were smoking menthol cigarettes.

While the US FDA has never declared that menthol cigarettes are more harmful than plain cigarettes, there are concerns that menthol cigarettes may be more addictive than plain ones.

One study done several years ago showed that the menthol in cigarettes inhibited the metabolism of nicotine, meaning that people ended up smoking more cigarettes.

This is not the first time the FDA has made moves toward regulating menthol cigarettes.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, was passed in June 2009.

The act authorised the FDA to ban all flavours of cigarettes except menthol, and required the FDA to create a Tobacco Products Advisory Committee which would study the use of menthol in cigarettes.

Hence while clove-flavoured cigarettes were made totally unavailable in the US, menthol cigarettes continued to be available.

The Tobacco Products Advisory Committee will soon present its results to the FDA.

Campaigners say that banning flavoured cigarettes - which mask the harsh taste of tobacco - could deter some young people from taking up smoking in the first place.

Other critics have said the act discriminated against African Americans, many of whom smoke menthol-flavoured cigarettes.


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