Although all the expert opinions from health officials are in, authorities at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have one more voice to listen to before they decide the fate of menthol in cigarettes- the voice of the American people.

The FDA completed an in-depth study on menthol in cigarettes and released their finding on July 23, the same day it issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) asking for public input.

“The evaluation talks about a lot of different associations between menthol cigarettes and outcomes,” said Jennifer Haliski, a press officer with the FDA. “There is greater initiation, greater addiction, and menthol makes it harder to quit.”

And smokers agree.

“Unfortunately, I’ve been smoking since before I could legally do so due to my father’s smoking habits,” said Jeffrey Goodman, a 23-year-old stage technician from Upper Marlboro, Md.

“The first time I smoked a cigarette it was a Newport King short, I can still remember how smooth it felt,” he said of the popular menthol cigarette. “Now, as a young adult who has quit smoking more than three times, I find that every time I do quit, I crave that smooth menthol taste.”

Goodman told the AFRO that he sometimes awakens from his sleep in “cold sweats, craving menthol,” and that after waking up, finishing a meal, or before going to sleep it is the only thing his body constantly desires.

“Honestly, if they took all menthol cigarettes off the market I’d be upset because I’d have to try and manage the craving without an easy way, but happy because I’d have to finally quit smoking them.”

President Obama, who has battled his own cigarette addiction over the years, took measures to tighten regulations on the sale and marketing of cigarettes in June 2009.

“More than 400,000 Americans now die of tobacco-related illnesses each year, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,” said Obama in transcripts from June 22, 2009, when he signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. “More than 8 million Americans suffer from at least one serious illness caused by smoking. And these health problems cost us all more than $100 billion a year.”

The law placed cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and loose tobacco under FDA regulation and banned flavored tobacco while leaving menthol cigarettes legal.

Packaging requirements also tightened, as the law required companies to display health-warning labels on 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packages. The Tobacco Control Act also eliminated the usage of words like “light,” and “mild” on tobacco products.

The Altria Group, a tobacco conglomerate that owns three different tobacco companies like Philip Morris USA, agreed with the FDA regulation in 2009.

“We have just received the latest information related to the FDA’s review of menthol cigarettes and are currently reviewing the information,” said the company.

“We will provide our perspective to the FDA through the public comment process.”


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer