Friday, February 19, 2010
Whose health do we compromise on?
Maeli wrote an interesting blog about cigarette marketing and it reminded me of the ban on flavored tobacco in 2009.
In 2009, the FDA called for a ban on flavored cigarettes, such as candy- and clove-flavored cigarettes, as they can be more attractive to teenaged users. Specifically excluded from the category of flavored tobacco were menthol (mint-flavored) cigarettes. They are still legal today, despite them being far more popular among teenagers than other flavors, including 80% of smoking African-American teenagers (and 23% of whites). African-American youth are also the targets of more aggressive tobacco advertisement.
The results of a Harvard study concluded that tobacco companies carefully manipulate the amount of menthol in their cigarettes according to age group they wish to attract. The minty flavor also makes the smoke easier to inhale deeper, increasing its addictiveness. Given this information, it seems odd that menthols wouldn't be banned.
The exclusion of Menthol cigarettes from the ban was intended to garner the support of company Philip Morris, which produces Menthol Marlboro, and without its support the bill might not have had the political power to pass.
However, others have argued the exclusion is somewhat racist. After all, the purpose of the "flavor ban" was to prevent America's youth from smoking, and African Americans not only prefer menthol but also disproportionately suffer from lung cancer.
Why are those with the most need the ones we're making political compromises on?