On May 12th, four papers were released in the American Journal of Public Health regarding the effect a ban on menthol flavoring in cigarette production would have. Each paper features different studies on tobacco use in the United States, and questions what results a ban might produce. According to Medical News Today, “One paper describes a study that ran computer models and estimated that if a ban were to be introduced now, it could prevent more than 600,000 premature American deaths by 2050…”

Findings from another paper report that 4 out of 5 African American cigarette users smoke menthol cigarettes, and a separate study from the National Cancer Institute discovered 39% of all menthol smokers (which includes more than half of all African American menthol smokers) would discontinue smoking entirely if a ban was placed on menthol cigarettes. Statistics from multiple studies suggest that African Americans are suffering more than any other demographic due to damage from the intake of menthol cigarettes. Dr. David Abrams, who is the executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Legacy, assisted with 3 of the 4 papers as well as a separate study on menthol tobacco users. He issued the following statement to the press:

“Tobacco is not an equal-opportunity killer, and the link between menthol smoking and African Americans cannot be overemphasized, nor can it be overlooked.” 

The taste of menthol encourages young and non-smokers to take up the harmful habit, and researchers are begging the FDA to implement a ban. New discoveries are still being made concerning the damaging effects caused by cigarette use. In July of 2009, the Journal of Neurochemistry released a study on the link between brain damage and smoking. Science Daily published an article about the results, stating, “Researchers, led by Debapriya Ghosh and Dr Anirban Basu from the Indian National Brain Research Center (NBRC), have found that a compound in tobacco provokes white blood cells in the central nervous system to attack healthy cells, leading to severe neurological damage.”

The study involved introducing mice to tobacco use, and then exploring the subjects’ brain and cell activity. The researchers found that the normal pattern of microglia, the brain’s immune cells, tend to change when tobacco is used. This causes those cells to attack healthy cells, instead of destroying harmful cells as usual. "This research sheds light on the processes that lead to nerve cell damage in those who smoke cigarettes or consume tobacco products on regular basis," said Ghosh.

References:

Paddock, C. (2011, May 12). Calls To Ban Menthol Cigarettes, US. Medical News Today: Health News. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/225297.php

Wiley - Blackwell (2009, June 23). Smoking Linked To Brain Damage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623090400.htm