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.