An advisory panel at the Food and Drug Administration gave its suggestion last week to the agency that menthol in cigarettes should be banned.
The FDA has been wrangling with the menthol issue for over a year. About a year ago, after being given regulatory control over tobacco products, the FDA immediately banned candy flavouring for tobacco, because it was believed this made tobacco more appealing to teens.
Menthol is a bit tougher nut to crack, because menthol cigarettes and menthol chew have been around for decades and represent roughly 30 percent of the tobacco market. Hell, it was all my dad smoked. It’s a flavouring, just like orange or strawberry, but it’s also a big part of the cigarette market and in fact one relatively large tobacco company — Lollilard — gets most of its profits from menthol cigarettes (Newport is a Lollilard brand). For some reason, a much higher percentage of blacks smoke menthols than whites, and a lot of menthol cigarette advertising is directed at black smokers. If menthol is banned, I could see it putting Lollilard out of business. They the third biggest company of the Big Three — Altria (Phillip Morris), RJ Reynolds being No.1 and No. 2 respectively.
Well, this panel came out and said it should be banned, because menthol, like candy-flavourings, has the effect of making cigarettes more appealing to teens and kids. Menthol itself does not increase the risk of lung cancer or other diseases caused by smoking. It just makes cigarettes more enticing to kids.
The FDA is supposed to make a final decision later this year.
One comes from a jury award in Boston. I’ve read about this case before. In the 1950s, Lollilard employees used to hang out at playgrounds handing out cigarettes to kids to get them started smoking. A jury awarded the family of a woman who died from lung cancer a $152 million judgement (including $81 million in punitive damages) because she got hooked on cigarettes from Lollilard enticing her and others with free cigs. The woman said that Lollilard employees first gave her free cigarettes when she was 9 years old. She got free cigarettes for years and didn’t actually start smoking them until she was 13. Here is her son’s story, in the Boston Globe.
At the trial, Lollilard denied giving away free cigarettes to children. Of course, they wouldn’t lie. Right? I mean, cigarette company never lied about their product causing lung cancer … or nicotine being physically addictive …. right?
There is also a racial component to the case. The plaintiffs claimed Lollilard intentionally targeted black children in black neighbourhoods with a brand — Newport — that has long been marketed to blacks.
Pretty disgusting stuff.
Cigarette smoke in apartment buildings bad for kids
A recent study showed that children living in apartment buildings had 45 percent higher amount of tobacco byproducts in the their bloodstream than children living in houses … even if adults in their units weren’t smokers.
In a study of tobacco exposure from secondhand smoke in more than 5,000 children, researchers led by Dr. Karen Wilson at University of Rochester found that youngsters aged 6 to 18 years who lived in multi-unit housing had a 45% increase in a chemical byproduct of tobacco in their blood compared with children who lived in detached family homes. And these were youngsters who lived in units where nobody smoked inside the apartment itself, meaning that the exposure was occurring primarily via secondhand smoke drifting in from other units.
This study surprised even the scientists involved. 99 percent of white children living in apartment complexes had cotinine, a byproduct of cigarette smoke, in their systems. It’s a pretty shocking story. You should read it.
Frankly, I can believe it. When I still lived in a condo (It was a non-smoking building), I still had neighbours downstairs who smoked. One guy moved in who literally went out on his deck every 20 minutes to smoke. That smoke blew right into my place. It was really nasty when you would get two or three people downstairs outside smoking. One day I came home. I had left my bedroom window open because it was hot, and there was literally a fog of cigarette smoke in the apartment from the guys downstairs. I had to have the carpet cleaned and the upholstery cleaned to get rid of the reek. I had tobacco grit in my throat and nose from breathing it. It reminded me of how awful my parents’ smoke had been. It really pissed me off. Fortunately, he wasn’t a bad guy at all — just utterly clueless about his cigarette smoke — and we were able to work things out amicably (they were breaking the rules. The rules said no smoking on the property, period), and they agreed to stop smoking underneath my deck.
I think it’s a case in which some smokers to this day (granted, a lot of smokers “get it.”) continue to be clueless about just how far their smoke can drift, and just how much it irritates non-smokers.