Menthol Lives Matter: the racial struggle in the US after the elimination of this type of tobacco

Let us start from the basis that all tobacco, in any of its forms, is negative. For this it is not necessary to resort to medical statistics or the dozens of thousands of scientific studies that prove it. It is common sense that tobacco is bad for your health. In the same way, this is known by each and every one of the smokers who assume the risks associated with the consumption of these products in exchange for get certain benefits, among which you can find social inclusion in adolescence, stress reduction, the release of endorphins (simple pleasure) or the elimination of ‘monkey’. The good part is that, today, there are few deniers of the effects that tobacco has on our health.

But not all tobaccos are the same, in the same way that the ways of consuming it are not. Swallowing smoke is worse than not; smoking without a filter poses a greater health risk; processed tobaccos with added chemicals are more harmful than the more natural ones, etc. But one of the biggest threats, at least in the eyes of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States is, curiously, the menthol tobacco. In 2020 the EU made the decision to ban it and now the US joins. In fact, in our country, it is illegal to sell these products. The reasons? What increase the addictive nature of cigarettes.

“First, let’s examine the ‘blacks’ themselves. They are skeptical of new consumer products and don’t care what the arguments are”

This is due, not only to chemistry, but also to the fact that tobacco, from an objective point of view of a non smoker (or a former smoker), is something considerably gross; doesn’t taste good. But these qualities that make it less attractive or favor discontinue use indefinitely they are overshadowed by the pleasant aroma, not only of menthol, but of other additives that give it more pleasant organoleptic qualities.

As explained by the CDC itself, “tobacco companies add menthol to these products to make it less ‘harsh’ in the eyes of the consumerand more attractive for the young population and for those who have never consumed it before”. Not only that, the American public health authority also explains that “although nicotine is the addictive compound in cigarettes, menthol increases its effects on our brain. In addition, tobacco companies, in recent years, have increased amount of nicotine that menthol tobacco contains.

The FDA measure affects the black community above all. (iStock)

Similarly, the CDC also makes it clear that one of the main problems with menthol tobacco is that its marketing is especially aimed at the black population from USA. In fact, as the organization points out, this is the population group that consumes this product the most, followed by youthscommunity LGBT+the womenpeople with very low income and those citizens who suffer mental problems.

According to FDA data, 85% of black smokers in the United States use only menthol cigarettes

According to Explain the doctor Phillip S. Gardiner of the University of California, “more than 70% of African-American smokers (in 2004) prefer menthol to normal tobacco. Compared to the white population, in which the figures only reach 30% (mostly women), consumption by The black community of these products represents a unique social phenomenon, caused mainly by the extraordinary manipulation of the tobacco industry of the emerging segregated and urban markets of the black population in the decade of the sixties”. Today, according to FDA data, 85% of black smokers in the United States use only menthol cigarettes.

Report, with very racist language, to sell ‘Camel Menthol’ to the African-American population.

The tobacco industry has reportsmade public and stored in the online library of the University of California, San Diegoin which he makes it clear that in 1967 the expansion of menthol tobacco among the African-American population was a priority: “This report aims to collect all the ideas we have to reach the ‘black’ market (original word omitted due to its racist and offensive character) with ‘Camel Menthol‘, especially, what we recommend doing right now in the ‘black’ area of ​​San Luis”. And it doesn’t stop there: “First, let’s examine the ‘blacks’ themselves (again, the racist qualifier omitted). The ‘blacks’ are skeptical of new consumer products and do not care what the media arguments are, whether mainstream media or ‘black'”.

Prohibition

This, of course, has generated a heated debate in the United States. As explained by its Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, the ban by the FDA “is intended to help prevent today’s children from becoming the new generation of smokers and, also, to help adult smokers to quit tobacco“Causes, of course, very honorable. But when the ban affects a minority of white smokers and a huge majority of African Americans, the problem is served.

Studies show that menthol tobacco is more addictive than regular tobacco. (iStock)

On the one hand, the main enemy of this ban is the tobacco industry. Since 1992, the FDA has tried twice to remove menthol cigarettes from the market, to which this sector has responded, such as explained in this article, promoting the fears of the population. The arguments used are that the prohibition of menthol tobacco will only promote the appearance of contraband, the increase in police surveillance and “more tragic episodes such as the Eric Garnerwho was strangled by police being arrested for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street.

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In other words, the tobacco industry is the first to promote the association of the ban on menthol in cigarettes (which is proven to increase their addictive potential) with racism. From the African-American smoking community they ask: “Why ban only menthols?”. The solution to this problem does not seem to be in sight. The FDA is going to go ahead with the elimination of menthol tobacco and the consequences of this are going to be severe, especially from a social point of view. But, as he explains the african american activist lincoln mondy in his documentaryBlack Lives / Black Lungs‘ (Black Lives / Black Lungs), “For years, the tobacco industry has ‘predated’ the black community to promote this product. Despite this, tobacco-related diseases (cardiovascular or cancer) continue to being today the leading cause of death in the African-American communityAnd that’s no coincidence.”

Let us start from the basis that all tobacco, in any of its forms, is negative. For this it is not necessary to resort to medical statistics or the dozens of thousands of scientific studies that prove it. It is common sense that tobacco is bad for your health. In the same way, this is known by each and every one of the smokers who assume the risks associated with the consumption of these products in exchange for get certain benefits, among which you can find social inclusion in adolescence, stress reduction, the release of endorphins (simple pleasure) or the elimination of ‘monkey’. The good part is that, today, there are few deniers of the effects that tobacco has on our health.

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