Are menthol cigarettes worse than regular cigarettes? FDA ban explained

Jane Corscadden April 29, 2021
Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Are menthol cigarettes worse than regular cigarettes? President Biden wants to ban menthol cigarettes in the US, and today is the court deadline for the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) to make its decision.

So, what do we know about these minty smokes?

What are they?

Well, as the name suggests, they’re cigarettes flavoured with menthol which gives this type of cigarette a minty taste. Menthol is a natural substance found in mint and is added to a bunch of stuff, including lozenges, nasal sprays, and syrups. It’s often used to relieve minor pain.

Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

What you may not know is that menthol was first added to cigarettes in the 1920s. Back then, they were marketed as being healthier and safer than non-menthol cigarettes. Adverts often emphasised their cooling, refreshing taste.

They were also marketed to “beginner” smokers, as well as those with health concerns. This was due to the belief that they’re safer than regular cigarettes. But is this really true?

Are menthol cigarettes worse than regular cigarettes? The science behind them

Firstly, they’re are just as bad for you as their non-menthol counterparts. Although they taste different, they still cause the same damage to the body.

However, one key difference is that menthol cools the throat. This makes the smoke less harsh.

But it’s thought that they may actually be more dangerous than regular cigarettes. This is due to many non-smokers taking up the habit as a result of the minty option.

Why is President Biden thinking of banning them?

In 2017, the FDA said that this makes it “likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with non-menthol cigarettes.”

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Another thought behind the Biden and FDA ban is that 85% of black voters use menthols. It’s been found that black men in America have the highest lung cancer death rate in America. Black Americans are also less likely than white Americans to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an early, treatable stage.

So, a proposed ban on these minty smokes could be good news all round for public health in the US.

Jane is a freelance journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland specialising in news, culture and politics. She studied Politics at Queen’s University Belfast before completing a Journalism MA at the University of Ulster. Always trawling social media and keeping up to date with the latest trends and crazes, her main interest lies in digital culture and internet trends.