Citing Menthol Exemption, Black Group Pulls Support for FDA Tobacco Bill

Menthol cigarette ad targeting African AmericansThe National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN) has withdrawn its support for a bill allowing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products. The legislation would ban spice, fruit and candy flavorings from cigarettes, but quietly exempted menthol flavoring from regulation. Legislators included the exemption to gain support for the bill from Philip Morris, the country's largest cigarette maker. Menthol cigarettes are disproportionately popular among African American smokers; 70 to 75 percent of this group smoke menthols compared to about 30 percent of the general smoking population. African Americans also suffer a disproportionately high share of smoking-related cancers. NAATPN executive director William S. Robinson said that instead of a reasonable explanation for why menthol was excluded from the bill, he received "weak and flimsy" excuses from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the health group that worked behind the scenes with Philip Morris to create the legislation.