According to a recent article by the Chicago Tribune, a federal advisory panel has urged further study by the FDA into banning menthol cigarettes.  So will there be an outright ban of menthol cigarettes?  Probably not, but the reasons why are complicated. 

What Does It Mean When The FDA Bans Something?

The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, is in charge of “protecting the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, and products that give off radiation” However, there is somewhat fierce debate over what the FDA can/should be in charge of. While the general mission of trying to protect the public health is noble, some believe that the FDA is overstepping its boundaries when it begins to regulate food or drugs that, while potential harmful, come with understandable warning labels.  Those who argue against the FDA ask, where does the regulation stop?  Should there be skull and cross-bones warnings on cans of soda? Are we not free to make decisions that, while they could harm us, are our decisions?

Those on the other side of the debate point to the expense of those decisions.  Research has shown that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. claiming 443,000 lives annually and costing $100billion for medical care and another $100billion in lost productivity.  Additionally, while respecting a person’s right to do what they please with their body, they point to the fact that others suffer from their cigarette use, whether it be medical issues related to second-hand smoke or littering of cigarette butts and ash.

Does This Ban Have Racial Undertones?

In 2009, the FDA was granted the authority to regulate the tobacco industry.  The bill contained bans on certain types of spices and flavoring of cigarettes because of their potential to allure younger smokers.  The thinking was that by making cigarettes less “child friendly” younger people would be less likely to smoke.  While there has been some success, there was no ban on menthol flavoring because it made up one-third of the cigarette market.

The argument that there are racial undertones for this ban comes from the fact that menthol cigarettes are preferred by 80% of black smokers.  According to the Tribune, several black civic groups have claimed that a ban on menthol cigarettes would unfairly target black consumers.  If in fact this ban was directed to curtail the choices of black smokers, the ban would be quickly overturned.

What do you think?  Should there be a ban on Menthol cigarettes?  On all cigarettes?