The following was submitted as a letter to the editor. Visit washingtonblade.com to join the discussion.
It’s no secret that cigarettes are extremely dangerous to your health. Cigarette smoking takes the lives of more than 400,000 Americans each year and, according to a report from the American Lung Association, the lives of more than 700 District residents. Menthol cigarettes are just as cancer-inducing as regular cigarettes and because of the flavoring, even more palatable for young smokers who quickly become addicted. Among African Americans, whose smoking rates are high, menthols are disproportionately the cigarette of choice.
The District’s LGBT community, too, should be alarmed by the widespread availability of menthol cigarettes. LGBT people smoke at 50 percent or more the rate of the general population. Our youth are exceptionally vulnerable: studies have shown LGBT youth to smoke at 2.5 to 9.7 times the rate of straight youth. Access to menthol cigarettes increases their chances of becoming smokers.
In 2009, the FDA instituted a ban on cigarettes containing flavors, herbs and spices. Farewell to vanilla, cinnamon, licorice, cloves and many other flavors that are proven to be enticing to youth. Why should “cool mint” menthol be treated any differently?
In 2011, the federal Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco advisory committee concluded, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.” To save our youth, Mautner Project urges the LGBT community to learn the dangerous facts about menthol cigarettes and speak out for change. We urge readers to join a new coalition, SmokeLess LGBT DC, to make their voices heard.
Visit Mautner Project’s website today and join the fight against tobacco, mautnerproject.org/education/tobacco.cfm. —Leslie J. Calman, executive director, Mautner Project