SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to hear from the public about what it considers a game-changer for public health. The FDA is currently taking public comment on a plan to ban menthol cigarettes.
43-year-old Jahan Baxter has been smoking menthol cigarettes since he was 16.
Eyewitness News asks, “What do you like about menthol-flavored cigarettes?”
“I just got addicted to them and they, like, I guess it calms me down and relaxes me,” explained Jahan Baxter of Scranton.
The FDA recently proposed banning menthol cigarettes claiming the minty tobacco product gets smokers addicted, at an early age, and makes it harder for them to quit. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation claims the tobacco industry targeted more than just young people. Studies show that 85 percent of black Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
“It was a very targeted, intentional strategy that has now led to the very high rates of menthol use among black smokers and higher rates of death and disease as well,” said Giridhar Mallya, MD, the Senior Policy Officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
It’s not just the menthol flavor that makes cigarettes like these so addictive. Experts say it’s what’s actually in the menthol.
Menthol is a chemical derived from the mint plant.
“It gives cigarettes this minty, kind of smoky flavor but it also cools the throat and makes it much less harsh to take a long, deep drag,” explained Dr. Mallya.
Eyewitness News asks, “Did you ever try menthol cigarettes?” Andrew Poklemba replied, “Sure, Newports, tools, I tried them all.”
Andrew Poklemba says he was able to kick the habit, but knew someone whose nearly two packs of menthol cigarettes a day habit cost him his life.
“That’s about two years ago. Yeah. He was my best friend,” said Poklemba.
The FDA says a ban on menthol cigarettes would help save lives, reduce healthcare costs and eliminate health disparities.
“I don’t believe it’s going to get passed.” Eyewitness News asks, “Why not?” Kinney says, “I think there’s going to be too many people that are going to protest. There’s a like I said, there’s a lot of cigarette smokers out there,” said Scott Kinney of Scranton.
But if menthol cigarettes were banned…
“I think I’ll stop smoking,” said Jahan Baxter of Scranton.
An estimated one million fewer smokers.
The FDA is taking public comment on the proposed menthol cigarette ban through August 2.