Sunday, June 14

A victory for public health?

The legislation happens to make it more difficult for tobacco companies to market smokeless alternatives to cigarettes that are far less lethal because they contain fewer carcinogens than cigarettes and don't enter the lungs. And while reducing the tar or nicotine content of an individual cigarette might make it "safer," it will also induce some people to smoke more to achieve the same fix -- the same way people often compensate for lower-calorie foods by eating larger servings.

Then there's the bill's exemption for menthol from the ban on flavored tobacco products. Menthol happens to be the most popular cigarette flavor, and the Journal reports that the Congressional Black Caucus pressed for the carve-out. Menthol brands account for less than 30% of the U.S. market but are favored by 75% of black smokers. Black public health officials understandably have opposed the exemptions. But black lawmakers apparently believe that banning an unhealthy product used by a disproportionate number of black voters is the greater evil.

What's also clear is that prohibiting menthol would especially hurt Lorillard, the top menthol cigarette maker, and Philip Morris, whose Marlboro Menthol is the second-leading menthol brand after Newport.
A victory for politics as usual.

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