The banning of menthol will help stop young people from becoming new daily smokers and help current smokers to be successful in quitting. The Centers for Disease and Prevention Control states that, “while fewer people now smoke cigarettes than in years past, the percentage of people who smoke menthol cigarettes is going down more slowly than for non-menthol cigarettes.”1 From 2008-2010 to 2012-2014, the percentage of adult smokers who currently smoke menthol cigarettes increased.1 Furthermore, from 2011-2015, menthol cigarette sales increased while overall cigarette sales decreased.1
Menthol is a chemical compound found naturally in peppermint but can also be produced in a lab. Even though many brands of cigarettes are marketed as “menthol cigarettes,” almost all cigarettes sold in the U.S. contain at least some natural or lab-created menthol. Menthol in cigarettes creates a cooling sensation in the throat and lungs when the user inhales, making cigarette smoke feel less harsh. However, menthol cigarettes are not less harmful than other cigarettes. The truth is smoking any kind of cigarette, including menthol cigarettes, is harmful.
Menthol has always been thought of as a “Black” product, because that is who the tobacco industry targeted their marketing at or if you saw a menthol advertisement most of the time you saw them with African American/Black men or women in them. Even when I was in college in the early 2000’s, my friends who smoked menthol cigarettes were always mentioned as having or growing up with Black friends simply because they smoked menthol cigarettes. This was interesting to me, as I grew up with a father who only smoked Kool cigarettes, but that was the brand he received every month while serving in Vietnam. Looking at the following statistics you will see that menthol is now the most popular cigarette for all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and genders.
- More than half (54%) of youth ages 12-17 years who smoke use menthol cigarettes.1
- Seven out of 10 African American youth ages 12-17 who smoke use menthol cigarettes.1
- The majority of African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes.1
- A higher percentage of black adults who smoke started by using menthol cigarettes (93%) than white adults who smoke (44%).1
- Women who smoke are more likely to use menthol cigarettes than men who smoke.1
- A 2009-2010 study showed LGBT people who smoke are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than heterosexual people who smoke.1
- People with low levels of income or education are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other cigarettes.1
- Adults who smoke and have mental health conditions also are more likely to use menthol cigarettes than those who do not have mental health conditions.1
To help bring awareness to No Menthol Sunday and the issue of menthol the Advancing Tobacco Free Communities grants released their It’s Not Just campaign. The campaign highlights how menthol has had a horrible impact on different populations, first focusing on the African American population and moving to LGBTQAI+, Latino, and youth populations. For more information on It’s Not Just visit notjustmenthol.org. For questions or more information about menthol and our local communities you can find Tobacco Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TFCCACoalition and Twitter @TobaccoFreeCCA or contact Community Engagement Coordinator Ken Dahlgren at firstname.lastname@example.org .
- “Menthol and Cigarettes” https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/tobacco_industry/menthol-cigarettes/index.html
Tobacco-Free CCA Reality Check Coordinator