Take Away Their Menthols? Is That Cool?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Principessa, Aug 3, 2008.

  1. Principessa

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    Take Away Their Menthols? Is That Cool?

    By MIREYA NAVARRO

    OVER the last 10 years, Jamey Heath, a songwriter and producer, has adjusted to an increasingly nonsmoking world and put up with the indignities.

    Smokers like him have become outnumbered in the music industry. He has seen restaurants shut down their smoking sections and cities shun him as persona non grata, even in the open air. These days he is reduced to smoking his Salem Lights in his car or on his front porch, in deference to his nonsmoking wife and two children.

    But a governmental ban on menthol cigarettes? Despite his own mixed feelings about smoking, “it feels unconstitutional,” Mr. Heath said. If all cigarettes were banned, he said, “that’s one thing, but to cut out just one segment seems a little fishy.”

    Smoking menthol cigarettes has become politically charged as Congress considers legislation that would give the federal government the power to regulate tobacco products for the first time. The bill, which the House of Representatives approved last week in a bipartisan vote, and which now awaits a Senate vote in the fall, bans clove, vanilla and other flavorings in cigarettes.

    But the bill’s sponsors in the House decided that the Food and Drug Administration should make the decision on how to regulate menthol, the most common flavoring. Menthol cigarettes account for more than a quarter of all cigarette sales and, studies and surveys show, are the preference of the overwhelming majority of African-American smokers, as well as a significant proportion of all teenagers ages 12 to 17.

    Those who support the ban of menthol include seven former federal secretaries of health and human services, African-American antismoking advocates and some Congressional Black Caucus members. Those opposing the ban of menthol include Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest cigarette company; other Black Caucus members; and major public health groups, which said a compromise was needed so as not to derail the legislation.

    In this maelstrom of debate are the smokers. There are those like Mr. Heath, who is African-American, who reject such wholesale interference with personal choices, and there are others who believe that having their menthol cigarettes snatched away may be just what they need to end their habit.

    AN entertainment executive with a major Hollywood studio who smokes Marlboro Smooth, a newly introduced menthol, said he did not want the government “telling me anything.”

    “Are we supposed to be so stupid that we need the F.D.A. to try to protect us from ourselves?” he said. But a ban, he continued, would be “one more thing to help me quit when I should anyway.”

    The executive, a white man who spoke on condition of anonymity because he serves on an antismoking committee in the movie industry, said he had once managed to stop smoking but became hooked on menthols about 10 years ago when he was stressed out and happened to have a cold. He asked a friend for a menthol cigarette, which he thought was a “less harsh” option.

    “I stuck with menthol,” he said. “A nonmenthol seems like smoking dirt.”
    Taste is a big draw to menthol cigarettes, whose mint flavor and cooling sensation are not unlike those found in mentholated cough drops or toothpaste. A study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published this year found that many African-American smokers view menthol cigarettes as “soothing” and “smooth,” and less harsh and dangerous than nonmentholated cigarettes.
    (Studies are inconclusive on whether menthol cigarettes are more, or less, addictive and harmful than unflavored ones.)

    “For me, I think I’m addicted twice, once to the menthol and then second to the tobacco,” said one smoker in a small group discussion with black adult smokers in the Atlanta area, which was held by the C.D.C. and summarized in a study published this year in Ethnicity & Health, an academic journal.

    Marketing campaigns have greatly influenced consumers. Menthol cigarettes have been heavily promoted to African-Americans since the 1960s, numerous studies have documented. A study released this year by the Harvard School of Public Health found that menthol cigarettes are increasingly popular with adolescents, partly because tobacco companies have new milder brands that facilitate “initiation.”

    Of course, some smokers had their eyes wide open when they succumbed to the habit.

    Katherine Dozier, 24, a wedding planner in Los Angeles who is white, said she started smoking regularly about a year ago, when a Hollywood club passed out Camel No. 9 menthols as a promotion. She was struck by the “cute” black-and-turquoise box with a pink camel, and said the cigarettes were obviously aimed at young women. “You just don’t see men smoking them because they wouldn’t be caught dead with these pink and green boxes,” she said.

    Ms. Dozier liked the cigarettes, finding them “really smooth and minty and very light,” she said. “They didn’t make me cough.”

    Soon she was smoking half a pack a day, also made easy, she noted, because the packs were sold two for the price of one. She said she recently cut back significantly, only smoking “if I’ve had a hard day at work.” She is trying to quit.
    She said she made up her mind after she caught a fellow driver in traffic staring at her puffing away “like it was really gross.”

    African-Americans have disproportionately high rates of death and disease from smoking, and 75 percent of black smokers choose menthol cigarettes. The House bill calls for review within one year of menthol cigarettes by a scientific advisory committee. (The White House has threatened to veto the bill, saying that the F.D.A. already carries a heavy workload and that the agency’s oversight could lead the public to mistakenly conclude that some cigarettes are safe.)

    “We experience more deaths and disease, and that alone to me should warrant the immediate banning of menthol,” said William S. Robinson, executive director of the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, which withdrew its support of the House bill because of the menthol exemption.

    Mr. Robinson said that at a recent family reunion in Norwalk, Conn., he rounded up a dozen or so cousins — men and women ages 30 to 50, all of whom smoked menthols — to talk about the possible ban. Without exception, he said, all said they would quit smoking if menthol cigarettes were not available. “They said they couldn’t tolerate the harshness of other products,” he said.

    But it may take more than a ban — or the health warnings or the $5 pack — to stop some smokers. Mr. Heath, the music producer, said he has tried to quit, without success. He has tried wearing nicotine patches, and he doubts that a menthol ban would work, either.

    “Most likely I’d continue to smoke it underground, or I’d switch to other cigarettes,” he said.

    For some smokers, menthol is the default choice. Brandal Hollingsworth, a 32-year-old security guard in Los Angeles, said he does not particularly like menthols, but that is what he often ends up smoking. He controls his habit by relying on his friends to give him a cigarette or two. And they smoke menthols. Usually, he breaks the filter off the cigarettes to extract more flavor. “A menthol is not the quality of a full-flavored cigarette,” he explained.


     
  2. TurkeyWithaSunburn

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    Well if they ban menthols they might want to just ban all flavorings in tobacco. I think vanilla is used to some degree in most cigs. Smokeless tobacco (dip, chew, chaw, snus whatever you want to call it) is usually flavored, and so is most pipe tobacco.

    Big tobacco is fighting it, which is always a good sign to ban something. The suspicious part of me says there are some secret company studies that show menthols are more addictive. Why else would they have started marketing menthols heavily in the 1960's and still continue to?
     
  3. Ed69

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    Go for it,I roll my own smokes.
     
  4. Mr. Snakey

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    Why ban menthols and not every other type of tobacco? Thats just silly.
     
  5. marleyisalegend

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    As much money as they make off of it? HA! I don't see them closing their wallets for the sake of doing what's "right".
     
  6. Deno

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    actually the ban is on flavored cigs and there thinking about exempting the menthol. And as I seem to have read its a Black lawmaker push. Seems more black people are concerned about blacks smoking and addiction patterns then whites are concerned over the issue at all. I really like it when they quote statistics like "some lawmakers think or some experts say" BULLSHIT!

    Just one more instance of someone else deciding for others what to do with there bodies. You would think that after 200 years of lawmaking we wouldn't need lawmakers anymore.

    Black Lawmakers Seek Restrictions on Menthol Cigarettes
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/business/01menthol.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
     
    #6 Deno, Aug 3, 2008
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008
  7. Mr. Snakey

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    Lights cigar and holds head and laughs.
     
  8. wonderland

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    I am not a smoker but people should be able to smoke whatever favor of cigarettes they want.
     
  9. TooWet

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    ... Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no. Fuck a lot of that.

    I think if we quit selling menthols I'd lose my -job-. Seriously, that's a huge chunk of our business.
     
  10. EagleCowboy

    EagleCowboy Well-Known Member

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    Many ingredients are used to give cigarettes their flavor. One of them is licorice.
     
  11. marleyisalegend

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    I DARE them to try to take away MY menthol.

    *grabs a torch and a pitchfork*

    Bring it ON baby!!!

    *lights a Newport*

    They gon' have to pry my Newports from my cold, dead hands.
     
  12. AlteredEgo

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    The article would have made me laugh harder if it had instead asked, "Is that Kool?"
     
  13. Qua

    Qua
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    I'm sorry, but this kind of governmental regulation of the shit I do to fuck up my body bothers me. If I want to smoke a menthol, I'll be damn pissed if the government has made it so I can't smoke one for the sake of "the public health"

    My political philosophies can basically be summed up with the hedonistic "I do what I want." And it's in this category of vices that gov't regulation really grinds my gears.
     
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