The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a world-changing proposal that could significantly reduce the number of cancer cases in the coming years.
The FDA pitched banning menthol cigarettes, which are tobacco cigarettes with the chemical compound menthol added to make them less harsh to use. The FDA made the announcement last week, one of the agency’s biggest steps toward protecting U.S. residents from dangerous toxins and the harms of cigarettes.
While smoking cigarettes does not cause the rare cancer mesothelioma, it does cause lung cancer. People who smoke are 20 times more likely than non-smokers to develop lung cancer, largely due to the damage tobacco cigarette toxins cause to the respiratory system and lungs.
Smoking and Cancer
Smoking causes lung cancer by affecting the respiratory system. The toxins damage your airways and small air sacs in your lungs. This damage can lead to cell mutations, which cause cells to replicate and avoid usual cell death. The replication of undying cells causes a clump of mutated cells, which is the beginning of a tumor.
Other diseases connected to smoking cigarettes are heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis.
The ban, which does not include menthol e-cigarettes, would take a year to enact. It’ll be discussed in the coming weeks before a formal decision is made.
This announcement comes weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed banning the most common type of asbestos. Lung cancer can also be caused by exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is also caused by asbestos exposure. Smoking does not cause mesothelioma – the only proven cause is asbestos – but can impact patients’ chances of survival and quality of life.
More About Lung Cancer
Approximately 230,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Most of those cases are the result of smoking tobacco. A small percentage of cases are from asbestos exposure, and a similar amount are from genetics. These are the three main causes of lung cancer.
Banning menthol cigarettes may reduce the number of lung cancer cases caused by smoking. This is not the only effort recently to reduce the number of lung cancer cases.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed banning chrysotile asbestos, the only type of asbestos still imported into the United States. Asbestos is not as prominent in American industrial procedures in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century but remains a health risk for people.
If these two proposals are enacted, they’d partly address two major causes of lung cancer.
What Are Menthol Cigarettes?
Tobacco companies add menthol to cigarettes to make them more appealing, particularly to new smokers and teenagers or young adults. Menthol cigarettes are not less dangerous than non-menthol cigarettes.
Menthol is a chemical compound found in peppermint and other plants, or produced in a lab. Menthol creates a cooling sensation in the throat and airways when users inhale the smoke. This creates a more appealing experience for cigarette users. Tobacco companies market menthol cigarettes for the mint properties. Menthol cigarettes make up one-third of the cigarette market.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the appealing nature of menthol makes this type of cigarette tougher for smokers to quit. It also makes people more likely to start smoking at a young age. Since the cigarettes are just as harmful to the lungs and other body parts, it can make menthol cigarettes more dangerous to public health.
Who Is Impacted by This FDA Decision?
Black people in the U.S. would be affected most by the FDA’s proposal. Nearly 85% of black smokers use menthol cigarettes, according to the New York Times. Only 29% of white smokers use menthol cigarettes.
The result is black men in America have the highest rates of lung cancer among any demographic. The New York Times reported 47,000 black men die each year due to smoking-related diseases.
Another group is teenagers. Young people often begin smoking with menthol cigarettes since it has an easier taste than non-menthol cigarettes. According to the New York Times, half of teenage smokers say they primarily use menthol cigarettes.
Cigarettes kill nearly 500,000 people in the U.S. each year, but the number of smokers in America is dropping. More awareness about the health risks of smoking has deterred people from using cigarettes.
Canada recently banned menthol cigarettes and reported 1.3 million people quit smoking. If a similar result happens in America, it’d be a major win for public health.
Sources & Author
- Menthol and Cigarettes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/tobacco_industry/menthol-cigarettes/index.html. Accessed: 05/01/2022.
Sources & Author