According to a new study from the Stanford School of Medicine, tobacco companies pumped up the advertising and lowered the price of menthol cigarettes in stores near California high schools with larger populations of African-American students.
That cigarette companies use predatory marketing strategies doesn’t surprise me at all. What I find shocking is a piece of news I missed at the time: A federal law passed in 2008 banned 13 candy flavorings in cigarettes. Candy flavorings in cigarettes. (So egregious, makes me embarrassed to be of the same species that dreamed it up.)
The 2008 ban, however, allowed the continued use of menthol flavoring. (I can just imagine the negotiating between the tobacco lobby and legislators: we’ll give up bubble gum and fruit punch, if we can keep peppermint.) Menthol makes the smoke from tobacco smoother and less harsh; even non- menthol cigarettes often have low levels of the additive.
Presently, the FDA is gathering information on whether to ban menthol as a flavoring agent in cigarettes.
Although cigarette makers deny using race or ethnicity to target consumers, the lead researcher for the study said the data shows a “predatory” marketing pattern geared to luring young African Americans into becoming smokers.
According to a press release for the study: a draft report by the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which the FDA asked to investigate the harms from the use and marketing of menthol cigarettes, found that the use of menthol cigarettes is highest among minorities, teenagers and low-income populations. Advertisements often tout the “freshness” of menthol cigarettes, and the report said many smokers mistakenly believe that the addition of menthol makes cigarettes less of a health risk.
“When kids are exposed to more cigarette advertising they are more likely to start smoking, which will undoubtedly lead to dire health consequences,” said senior author Stephen Fortmann, MD, a professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford who is now a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. “Our study finds that tobacco companies are trying to make smoking more attractive to teens, when we as a society should be doing just the opposite.”
“Adding menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and harder to quit, so the public health community strongly supports an FDA ban on menthol flavoring,” Fortmann said.
Along with menthol, other research has shown that the key purpose of using additives is to improve tobacco’s potency resulting in increased addictiveness–and the additives they choose to use are dreadful.
For a full list of additives, see The Shocking Ingredients in Cigarettes