Under the tobacco regulation bill recently passed by Congress, flavoring in cigarettes will be banned to diminish the attraction of smoking to youth smokers, with the exception of menthol. Menthol-flavored cigarettes represent 27 percent of the market and are the product of choice for 75 percent of African-American smokers. When the bill is signed into law, the FDA will be required to study the medical effects of menthol which has a mild anesthetic property that could exacerbate the dangers of smoking by reducing the harshness of the tobacco and the FDA will have the authority to ban it if they find it unhealthy.
Cherry and clove flavors can go, but the tobacco industry wouldn t tolerate menthols being banned, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. They re too big a market, and since they re predominantly used by African-Americans, there s a racial discrimination aspect to the issue of restricting them. Whichever way the FDA goes on menthol, it will create an uproar which is why it was carved out of the current bill so as to guarantee its passage, so fervently desired by Altria.