The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a proposal last week to ban menthol cigarettes, which account for over a third of cigarette consumption. They say the move to eliminate menthol—a minty flavor that reduces irritation and makes cigarettes more addictive—from the market will cause a 15% reduction in smoking and could save over half a million lives over the next 40 years.
If implemented, the ban would disproportionately impact Black smokers, 85% of whom prefer menthol cigarettes as a result of years of targeted marketing from the tobacco industry, according to a national survey on drug use and health from 2018.
Still, some Black leaders have spoken out against the ban, arguing that it will cause criminalization that will target Black populations. But two experts from Northeastern say it is an overdue measure that will save lives, and that invoking suggestions of possible police brutality in today’s social climate is another tactic for Big Tobacco to continue selling products to that targeted audience.