The Food and Drug Administration appears likely to move to ban menthol in cigarettes this week — a step, experts say, that has been years in the making and that could have a significant positive impact on the health of Black Americans.
The FDA's decision would not ban menthol immediately, but rather kick off the rule-making process to do so, which could take years.
"The winds are definitely in our favor," said Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the Center for Black Health & Equity, citing both the decades of data that show that the cooling flavor in cigarettes makes it easier to start smoking combined with the current cultural momentum toward improving the lives of Black Americans.
When inhaled, menthol produces a cooling sensation in the throat, reducing the harsh taste of cigarettes and the irritation of nicotine. The vast majority of Black smokers — 85 percent — use menthol cigarettes. And Black men and women are much less likely than white Americans to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier, potentially more treatable stage. Black men have the highest lung cancer death rate in the country.