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Opinion D.C. should ban the sale of menthol cigarettes

Packs of menthol cigarettes in 2018 in New York.
Packs of menthol cigarettes in 2018 in New York. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Regarding the April 17 news article “Black health organizations press Biden administration to ban menthol cigarettes”:

Beginning in the 1950s, Big Tobacco targeted our communities with dubious marketing campaigns to bamboozle Black people to smoke menthol-flavored cigarettes. It leveraged the civil rights movement and Black Pride movement to prey on our desires to be seen and heard. It advertised with people who looked like us in the magazines that we read and sounded like us on the radio stations that we listened to. Now it is using innovative technology to make next-generation products and using social media to push its deceptive messages to our youths.

Its efforts worked. Black smokers choose menthol cigarettes. Smoking kills 45,000 Black Americans each year. Lung cancer kills more Black Americans than any other type of cancer. That’s why the NAACP has signed a letter calling on the Food and Drug Administration to end the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes so we can start to close the health disparities these products helped create.

If the FDA acts, it may be years before these products come off the market. Meanwhile, the D.C. Council has the opportunity to protect our youths by removing these products now by strengthening and passing legislation being marked up by the Judiciary Committee and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

Every day these products remain on the market, more young people get hooked. Let’s keep the flavor in our food and out of tobacco.

Tambra Raye Stevenson,

The writer is the health chair of the NAACP Washington, D.C., Branch.

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