I strongly support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent efforts to remove menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars from the market. Flavors, including menthol, make tobacco products less harsh and easier to start. Removing these products will save lives and reduce health care costs (”FDA issues plan to ban menthol in cigarettes and cigars,” April 28).
The dangers of menthol-flavored cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products hit close to home for me, as a respiratory caregiver for more than 30 years, as a Black woman and as a mother and grandmother. Big Tobacco has routinely targeted youth and adults in Black communities with menthol-flavored products, which increase addiction and make it harder to quit. Approximately half of all people who smoke under the age of 25 and about 85% of Black smokers use menthols, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 45,000 Black Americans die from tobacco-related disease each year.
Long-term smokers suffer from chronic lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD and are unable to live their best lives. They cannot do the things they love to do without frequently resting or feeling short of breath. Some of them need supplemental oxygen at home for the rest of their lives which are shortened because of the way their lungs have been scarred from smoking. Tobacco use also effects heart health, and is linked to one-third of all premature heart disease deaths each year, according to the American Heart Association.
When I first began practicing respiratory care, people who looked like me were constantly coming into the hospital short of breath, afraid and scared, and yet they would reach into their purse and pull out a cigarette because nicotine is so addictive once you start. They still felt the need to take that extra smoke.
Join me and take action by making sure the public understands the importance of keeping our children from starting smoking in the first place. I urge the FDA to prohibit menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars from the market once and for all. We can do this.
— Shuron Abdullah, Bowie
The writer is a volunteer for the American Heart Association.
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