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According to Rose, menthol cigarettes have a long history of being disproportionately marketed toward African Americans, to the point that nearly 90% of the African Americans who smoke use them. Menthol flavoring eases the harshness of cigarette smoking and has been associated with more difficulty quitting and progression to regular use.
The study is particularly timely with the recent federal restrictions on flavored vaping products, which exempts menthol and tobacco flavors. Rose says that while these policies are important to protect youth from tobacco use, their adoption and implementation may overlook the need to protect others at higher risk for using flavored tobacco products, including racial and ethnic minorities.
Flavored tobacco restrictions that do not include menthol cigarettes unfairly affect people who are harmed by them the most and it negatively impacts public health." Shyanika Rose, assistant professor, Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky
Rose says next steps are to examine the impacts of "strong" policies that include a ban on menthols to see how they affected the smoking behavior of youth, racial/ethnic minority and low-income populations. Additional bans on menthols are gaining momentum at the local, state and federal level and Rose's ongoing research could help lawmakers create policies that are more equitable.
"As more localities are considering flavored tobacco restrictions, they really need to think about having the strongest restrictions including bans on menthol cigarettes to adequately protect public health and reduce these disparities," Rose said. Source:
University of Kentucky Journal reference:
Rose, S. W., et al. (2020) Characteristics and Reach Equity of Policies Restricting Flavored Tobacco Product Sales in the United States. Health Promotion Practice . doi.org/10.1177/1524839919879928 .
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