The Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, a Food and Drug Association committee studying the health effects of menthol, or mint-flavored, cigarettes, recommended Friday that the products be outlawed to stop an increase in smoking among children and minorities in the U.S.
Political leaders must not take the drastic step of making menthol cigarettes an illegal narcotic.
The committee admitted in the report that menthol cigarettes pose no additional health risk in comparison to traditional cigarettes, but argues that young people like the mint flavoring and many will pick up the habit as a result.
But it’s not just hypothetical minors that smoke menthol cigarettes; many adult smokers will only smoke menthol – just as many will only smoke non-menthol.
The government isn’t willing to ban cigarettes altogether, but they may as well be for many adults who smoke menthol cigarettes.
Menthol cigarettes have been around for more than 80 years and, regardless of what many like to believe, are a cultural staple in American society, unlike other recently banned products allegedly targeted to minors such as alcoholic energy drinks or fruity-flavored cigars and tobacco products.
It’s inevitable that a black market trade would attempt to fulfill the demand for menthol cigarettes even if they were banned, which would ruin lives as violators are prosecuted, jailed, labeled as criminals and stripped of their ability to exercise their civil rights.
And this drastic step may not even make much of a noticeable difference.
Smoking among high school students is at the lowest level it’s been in decades, with only 7.3 percent of students admitting to smoking frequently in 2009, down from 12.7 percent in 1991, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It should not be the government’s responsibility to legally prohibit adults from product flavorings that don’t make a product any more dangerous, because some think that parents shouldn’t be responsible for supervising their children and keeping them away from age-regulated products.
With this reasoning, there should also be undertakings to ban the sale of alcoholic drinks such as mint juleps, mojitos or fruit-flavored liquors such as 99 Bananas or watermelon-flavored Smirnoff vodka, since their flavors may also attract young people who could eventually end up suffering from alcoholism.
According to the Department of U.S. Health and Human Services, 81 percent of high school students have tried alcohol, while only 70 percent have tried cigarettes.
The rights of adult menthol smokers must not be taken away because unsupervised kids may disregard the law by abusing the product, as many already do with traditional cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications or even household items like glue or paint.
The arbitrary benefits of banning menthol cigarettes do not outweigh the loss of personal freedoms or parents’ need to be responsible for their children’s actions.