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FDA Mulling Ban on Menthol Cigarettes
Date:8/18/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- With their enticing cool and minty flavor, menthol cigarettes have emerged as one of the most controversial products made by the tobacco industry.

Kids are particularly drawn to them, with nearly 45 percent of smokers aged 12 to 17 using menthol cigarettes, according to a 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Most black teenaged smokers -- and 82.7 percent of black adult smokers -- favor menthols, the same survey found.

"The manufacturers would have you believe there is not a scintilla of evidence that menthol is no more dangerous than other cigarettes to the individual smoker, but we do not agree," said Ellen Vargyas, general counsel for the American Legacy Foundation, a smoking prevention and cessation organization in Washington, D.C., founded with funding from the landmark Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and state governments. "Over 80 percent of African-American smokers smoke menthol, and African-America smokers have the highest rates of lung cancer. We also know African-Americans with lung cancer are more likely to die from lung cancer."

In addition, the popularity of menthols among younger, newer smokers suggests that maybe the minty taste does encourage people to start, perhaps by masking the harsh taste of regular cigarettes, she added.

"We know the younger you are and the newer the smoker you are, the more likely you are to smoke menthol," said Vargyas. "There is a very strong correlation between being a teenaged smoker and menthol cigarettes."

That's no coincidence, say smoking opponents: The tobacco industry has long targeted youth and minorities for menthol cigarette marketing, even manipulating menthol content in different brands in an effort to recruit new smokers among youth, according to the National Cancer Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The debate ove
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