Philip Morris in the Driver's Seat on FDA Tobacco Bill

menthol will not be banned

The proposed Food and Drug Administration tobacco bill currently under consideration would ban artificial flavors like cinnamon and cherry from cigarettes, but strangely gives special protection to menthol. Public health advocates wonder why menthol has been exempted from the bill, especially when it masks the harsh taste of cigarettes for beginners. A 2006 study also showed that menthol makes it harder for addicted smokers to quit. Menthol brands are also disproportionately popular among African Americans; seventy percent of blacks smoke menthols, compared to only 30 percent of whites. While African Americans smoke less than whites overall, they suffer higher rates of cancer and other tobacco-induced diseases. Despite all this, legislators believe that menthol cannot be eliminated as a cigarette flavoring under the bill because menthol is crucial to the $70 billion cigarette market. It is of particular importance to Philip Morris, which has been planning for, and driving FDA regulation of cigarettes since 1999. The watered-down terms resulted from legislators' belief that the bill won't pass without PM's buy-in.