Interact for Health believes that removing menthol and flavored tobacco products from the market is an effective strategy to reduce tobacco use among youth and African Americans.
Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and the Greater Cincinnati region.1 Smoking costs the United States more than $300 billion per year between direct medical care costs and lost productivity.2 Reducing tobacco use is the most important strategy that would improve health outcomes in our region.
The tobacco industry has historically used flavors to target specific groups—including, youth and African Americans—and continues this tactic today with flavors in e-cigarettes and vaping products. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited the use of flavors in regular cigarettes, except for menthol. Although menthol may mask the harshness and flavor of tobacco, menthol cigarettes are still as addictive—if not more addictive— and just as harmful as non-menthol cigarettes.3 Despite flavor restrictions on cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products still include flavors.
Flavors along with targeted marketing have made traditional tobacco products and now e-cigarettes appealing to youth. In recent years, the use of e-cigarettes has increased dramatically among youth while cigarette use has continued to decrease. In 2019, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product with 20% of the nation’s youth reporting current e-cigarette use.4 A majority of youth e-cigarette users report using flavors at initiation and say it is a reason for their continued use.5
The tobacco industry also has a history of targeting menthol cigarette advertising toward African Americans. The percentage of African American adults in Greater Cincinnati who report that they are current smokers is the same as white adults. However, African Americans are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than people who are white.3 In Greater Cincinnati, 3 in 10 smokers (30%) usually smoke menthol cigarettes.6 Yet, 7 in 10 (68%) African American smokers usually smoke menthol cigarettes compared with just 2 in 10 (19%) white smokers.6
Restricting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, helps to reduce tobacco-related health disparities and create a healthier community that protects all people from the harms of tobacco.
Therefore, Interact for Health believes that removing menthol and flavored tobacco products from the market is an effective strategy to reduce tobacco use among youth and African Americans.
Policy adopted on Feb. 19, 2020
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. (2014). The health consequences of smoking—50 years of progress: A report of the surgeon general, 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/50-years-of-progress/index.html
2 Xu, X., Bishop, E.E., Kennedy, S.M., Simpson, S.A., & Pechacek, T.F. (2014). Annual healthcare spending attributable to cigarette smoking: An update. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 48(3):326–33.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). African Americans and tobacco use. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/disparities/african-americans/index.htm
4 Wang, T.W., Gentzke, A.S., Creamer, M.R., Cullen, K.A., Holder-Hayes, E., Sawdey, M.D.,… Neff, L.J. (2019). Tobacco product use and associated factors among middle and high school students- United States, 2019. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 68 (12).
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). E-Cigarettes and youth toolkit for partners: How you can help end the epidemic. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/pdfs/e-cigarettes-youth-partners-toolkit-508.pdf
6 Interact for Health. (2019). Tobacco Use in Greater Cincinnati. Cincinnati, OH. Retrieved from: https://www.interactforhealth.org/upl/media/gcats_2019_final_for_web_083019.pdf