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Menthol Cigarette Bans Sweep the Nation

Politicians should butt out of people's personal habits.

Marlboro Menthol cigarette boxes.Mattes/Wikimedia CommonsOnce nanny-staters wanted to take the fun out of smoking. Now they're trying to take the flavor out.

This week Oakland prohibited the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored cigar papers, vaping liquids, and menthol cigarettes. San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in June of this year. Minneapolis did the same in August.

Even the feds are looking to get in on this action. On August 22, eight Democratic senators sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration demanding that the agency take actions to "remove menthol cigarettes from the market place."

What, you might ask, could possibly justify such a petty restriction? Racial justice, apparently. San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, has promised her city's ban will put a stop to tobacco companies "selectively targeting our young adults in the African American community, the Asian Pacific Islander community, the LGBT community." (She also describes the rule, which she introduced, as "groundbreaking" and "Earth-shattering.") Similar justifications have been offered in Oakland, Minneapolis, and elsewhere.

It is true that black smokers use menthol cigarettes at a greater rate than the average American smoker. 88 percent of black smokers choose menthol cigarettes, compared with the 30 percent market share menthol cigarettes have among smokers nationwide. But does that mean the proper anti-racist response is to crack down on menthol? Indeed, is it not perhaps a tiny bit discriminatory to prohibit a product primarily because of the race of the people buying it?

Cohen and company have a readymade response to this: Far from being a genuine expression of their preferences, minorities have been hoodwinked into liking menthol cigarettes by a tobacco industry that "loves vulnerable populations" and "targets" them accordingly.

The Centers for Disease Control loves this line of though. On a webpage titled "African Americans and Tobacco Use," the agency treats us to some of the ways evil tobacco companies have allegedly inculcated a desire for menthol cigarettes among the black population. They includes giving menthol products more shelf space in black neighborhoods, having price promotions on menthol products, and running "culturally tailored" advertisements.

To progressive prohibitionists, this all is evidence of a grand conspiracy to create demand for menthol cigarettes. To me, it looks like businesses servicing a preexisting demand.

You don't have to take that from me, though. Take it from the city council president and vice mayor of Oakland, whose report on the supposed need for a menthol ban states this explicitly: "As a result of market research, the cigarette companies know that most African-American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes."

The report goes on to quote internal tobacco marketing documents confirming this. "Marlboro would probably have a very difficult time getting anywhere in the young black market. The odds against it there are heavy. Young blacks have found their thing, and it's menthol," reads one 1974 report at Phillip Morris.

On top of that, I'm hard pressed to understand what exactly these bans will accomplish. Many smokers will make do with all the other sorts of cigarettes that will still be available. And people who really crave that cool, minty flavor will have the option of stocking up in the next city, or will just source their smokes from the inevitable black market that arises to meet their needs. Does anyone think the ban will actually cause a substantial number of smokers to quit?

Photo Credit: Mattes/Wikimedia Commons

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  • sarcasmic||

    First they ban bidis. Then cloves. Now menthols. What's next?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Grape soda?

  • sarcasmic||

    Jesus, I hope so.

  • sarcasmic||

    Though I wouldn't mind getting my hands on some pork soda.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Shit, was afraid it WASN'T gonna be Primus. Good show.

  • Ska||

    Going to see them Halloween, gonna be sick.

  • sarcasmic||

    You suck.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They suck.

  • Episteme||

    First they came for the purple stuff. Then they came for the Sunny D.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Chicken and waffle restaurants?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Basketball?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Marijuana?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Kool Aid?

  • Ska||

    Don't forget St. Ides, OE and the like.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Sneakers?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Obscenely expensive sneakers, you mean.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    White, heavy, blonde women?

  • sarcasmic||

    Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    /John

  • Episteme||

    But fat bottom girls, they make the rocking world go round!

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Popeyes?

  • Hugh Akston||

    The Cadillac Escalade?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Dragon Ball Z?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    SpongeBob Posts on Twitter?

  • Netizen_James||

    you can still buy clove - they just have to market themselves as 'cigars' instead of 'cigarettes'.

    "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They actually are slightly different as they have are cigarillos now. So they are the size of cigarettes but with a tobacco leaf wrap rather than paper.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    The Nae Nae?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Ashy elbows?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Lateness?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Worldstar?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Goddamn! I hate control freaks. I wish we could ban them.

  • Ska||

    My buddy used to get Kools from the PX and bring them to school. Not even Newports. Kools.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    All laws really are constructed to harm black folk. no sarc.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Banning menthol fags seems to be OK with the progs then I guess...

    Chitllins-flavored fags (cigs in Brit-talk lingo)... Can we ban Chitlins-flavored fags, fried-chicken-flavored fags, watermelon-flavored fags? Or would that be too racist? Can we be British-flavored in the first place, and call coffin nails "fags", or is that, too, "politically correct", AKA "un-woke"?

    Inquiring minds want to KNOW, dammit!!!!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Indeed, is it not perhaps a tiny bit discriminatory to prohibit a product primarily because of the race of the people buying it?

    Racial infantilization knows no shame.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    If a Republican introduced legislation to ban watermelons, would Democrats call that racism?

  • Tony||

    I'd call it a welcome end to a disgusting food.

  • Murgatroyd||

    Damn it, Tony....is there anything that you're not wrong about?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Troll chow. It loves troll chow, as it should.

  • Tony||

    Come on. How can anyone like a mouth full of near-tasteless watery mush... with seeds in it?

  • Brian||

    Oh, come on: it's the Official State Vegetable of your home state.

    Yes: vegetable.

  • ||

    near-tasteless

    In North America, where improved shelf-life necessitates minuscule sugar content in fruits. Try watermelons in Hungary (buy it in season at a roadside stall), and your mouth will get a treat you'll not forget until your dying days.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    This. The watermelons my uncle grew were so sweet we put on a little salt to smooth it out.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony, you really do hate black people don't you? Black people love watermelon.

    Just call them the N* word and get on with it.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I have been woke. Please let me correct this poor attitude of mine.

    If Republicans tried to ban Menthol tobacco because too many blacks liked it, that would be genocide.

    If Democrats tried to ban watermelons or fried chicken because too many blacks are caricatured with them, they would be race saviors.

  • sarcasmic||

    They'd be saving blacks from obesity and diabetes.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm glad I quit smoking.

  • Tony||

    I have mixed feelings. My weight and anxiety are less under control than when I was smoking. I'm definitely not eating any more than I used to, so I don't get the weight thing. Though it's very liberating knowing I can go all day at work or take a plane trip without having to worry about when I can get a smoke.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm not mixed a bit. I don't miss spending all that money. I always smoked outside, and I don't miss that. Well, I kinda miss knowing what the critters are up to, but that's it. I even got away with only one air conditioner this summer since I wasn't opening the door and letting hot air inside a couple times an hour. I can breathe without my lungs sounding like a bowl of rice crispies. I'm not coughing until I puke every morning in the shower. No, I don't miss it a bit.

  • Tony||

    If smoking were more socially acceptable these days I'd be more mixed, but yeah definitely more benefits than drawbacks.

  • Cyto||

    On the "I'm definitely not eating any more than I used to" front: it doesn't take much at all to go from "under control" to gaining weight.

    I've seen it said that if you are on a strictly maintenance diet - you are eating exactly what you need to neither gain nor lose weight - just adding one 200 calorie treat a day will lead to a weight gain of 25 lbs per year.

    That's not a lot.... not even enough to be noticeable if it isn't "snacking" but just eating a little bit more with each meal. 70 calories per meal is nothing.... another half-glass of soda or an extra few fries.

    Strangely, it doesn't seem to work the other way round. At least not for me.

  • Wally||

    Menthol is too ghetto!

  • gad-fly||

    Not to worry. NFL players are petitioning the league to endorse Activism Awareness by sending a ten page memo to league officials, Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent. Leading the activists are Michael Bennett, anthem-protester and cop-suing defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, anthem-protester and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and strangely, retirees Anquan Boldin, and Torrey Smith.

    If it takes ten pages to define the problems, flavored cigarettes and vapes have to be included - don'cha think?

  • Bra Ket||

    I don't think something can be a memo and be ten pages, by definition. Perhaps screed. Or manifesto.

  • Episteme||

    The memo is by American football players, so the writing must have a lot of padding?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    First women didn't have enough agency to tink for themselves, for they were the victims of white patriarchy.

    Now blacks don't have enough agency to think for themselves, for they are the victims of white patriarchy.

    Eventually only white women will have enough agency to rule everybody, and it will be Chelsea's turn.

  • ||

    it will be Chelsea's turn

    Clinton or Manning?

  • NoVaNick||

    I would much rather be ruled by the latter.

  • Episteme||

    Are white men allowed to apply for disability on account of patriarchy addiction yet?

  • ||

    This week Oakland prohibited the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored cigar papers, vaping liquids, and menthol cigarettes.

    I wonder if 'vaping liquids' is adequately or directly defined as a tobacco product via nicotine content or if they just prohibited the sale of any vapor that effectively smells like something else under the auspices of tobacco consumption.

    I mean, I know it isn't a tobacco product and I don't normally inhale Vicks vaporub but when I do, I certainly inhale the vapors for a soothing respiratory effect. And I can only assume that a dab of Vicks (Ooh! Lemon!) on a cigarette or you fingertips while smoking isn't substantially different.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Vaping liquids strikes me as purely anger over the free-market working around the systems they had in place.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Yes, that and hatred of voluntary choice as a general proposition. Al Franken, f'rinstance, wants The Political State to fund looter candidates and is prolly on this bandwagon to help the poor, dissolute, uncovered wretches to "git clean".

  • Rockabilly||

    First they came for the menthol cigarettes - but I din't care cause I smoke Camel toe

    Then they came for the big gulps - But I din't care cause I drink Colt 45 Malt Liquor

    Then they came for the Krispy Cream donuts - and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Longtobefree||

    When they come for the Krispy Kreme donuts, I will speak for you!
    (And I will speak loudly if it includes the chocolate covered glazed)

    And I will stand beside you at the bridge, with my favorite piece of sporting equipment and its illegal 'high capacity magazine'.

  • Calidissident||

    I'm sure progressives will be shocked when the enforcement of this ban disproportionately affects minorities.

  • NoVaNick||

    Look forward to more Eric Garners. And when the corner shops in black neighborhoods are forced to close, they will replace them with yoga studios and doggie bakeries.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If black people and other minorities are too dumb to navigate public life, they're not smart enough to make tobacco decisions.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Only blacks and Mexicans. We've also saved the shit out of the Natives. Indians and Asians don't get shit.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    GodDAMN Progtards.

    That is all.

  • NoVaNick||

    I don't think that any city has the authority to ban a specific flavor of cigarette-only the FDA can do that and there is no evidence that menthols are more dangerous than non-menthol cigarettes-even some evidence to the contrary that they are somewhat safer because menthol reduces some of the inflammation caused by the smoke. This is a PR stunt that I'm sure Big T will smack down in court.

  • Cyto||

    I don't know about that. Do the feds claim exclusive control over cigarette regulation? I know cities can have rules about where they can be sold, or how.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Menthol IS an analgesic. It is not uncommon for parasites to inject their victims with analgesics. Another thing nobody mentions is that tobacco plants incorporate Polonium 210, which is not all that different from putting Strontium 90 into your lungs. If we're gonna champion informed consent and free choice, how about some information? Legalizing less harmful alternatives such as vaping, weed, plutonium, dimethyltriptamine, ownlife and freethinking couldn't hurt either.

  • NoVaNick||

    I never cared for menthol-but anyway, we know where they are going with this-complete elimination of any/all forms of tobacco and nicotine by 2030-per WHO directive. Wonder what will happen after that, with no tobacco taxes to support the healthcare system strained by all the old folks who would have died from lung cancer or heart attacks?

  • Cyto||

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Selectively targeting .... the LGBT community? What? Since when is menthol a big LGBT thing? I missed that one. Maybe my friends aren't doing the gay thing right. Also, I missed the Cool advertising featuring the campy gay guys lighting up their menthols. I need to pay more attention, I guess.

    2. This is reminiscent of the "crack epidemic" in the 80's. with inner city politicians saying it was racist to not specifically target crack for special enforcement. Now it is menthol cigarettes, but the mentality is the same. 5 years hence, do you suppose it will be racism that drives police to arrest the young black men who are selling cartons of menthols on the streets?

    3. About the "culturally tailored advertisements", I definitely recall civil rights activists angrily protesting the lack of black faces and black themes in advertising. So I guess McDonald's had better watch their back, since they also have advertisements that feature minorities both in character and theme.

    4. Since when does Phillip Morris control shelf space for inner city convenience stores?

  • Mendelism||

    "2. This is reminiscent of the "crack epidemic" in the 80's. with inner city politicians saying it was racist to not specifically target crack for special enforcement. Now it is menthol cigarettes, but the mentality is the same. 5 years hence, do you suppose it will be racism that drives police to arrest the young black men who are selling cartons of menthols on the streets?"

    I've always expressed skepticism at the idea that the race-hustlers are actively promoting racist policies so that they can remain relevant and retain their cultural power. It's getting harder and harder to remain skeptical.

  • Mickey Rat||

    This will be just as good for black Americans as higher sentences for crack cocaine was...oh wait.

  • Longtobefree||

    The bare face of blatant racism revealed in all its glory.

  • Mendelism||

    So, will white people still be able to buy menthols? It would be a shame if us menthol-smoking white folks got caught up in this racist dragnet, don't ya think?

  • Vernon Depner||

    The purpose of menthol cigarettes is to keep white co-workers from trying to bum smokes.

  • Mendelism||

    +1 oh, no thanks

  • Spartacus||

    Indeed, is it not perhaps a tiny bit discriminatory to prohibit a product primarily because of the race of the people buying it?

    Cohen and company have a readymade response to this: Far from being a genuine expression of their preferences, minorities have been hoodwinked into liking menthol cigarettes by a tobacco industry that "loves vulnerable populations" and "targets" them accordingly.

    Good (or at least useful) to know that the White Man's Burden is still alive and well.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Black men hardest hit!

  • Brandybuck||

    They're banning menthols because Blacks smoke menthols. The nannyist Left isn't even shy about admitting this.

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