By: Jennifer Howell
An FDA advisory panel met Tuesday to discuss a ban on menthol cigarettes and is expected to release their decision this week.
This discussion has fueled a debate over how the African American community will be affected by the ban.
A study by the University of California found 70% of African Americans more likely to choose Menthol cigarettes compared to 30% of white smokers.
The FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) cited a 2010 report that found African Americans are more likely to smoke menthols than any other racial or ethnic groups.
"I honestly believe it's something that is engrained in our culture," USC African American student Kareema Dennis said.
Some marketing experts say this could be because menthol brands like Newports have historically targeted African Americans.
David Crockett, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina, said he remembers seeing Newport billboards mostly in areas with greater African American populations.
"I always remember that being a source of controversy," said Crockett. "People saying, why are the worst products targeted to these areas?"
FDA's TPSAC has been reviewing the health effects of menthol cigarettes for the past year.
"Evidence is sufficient to conclude that it is biologically plausible that menthol makes cigarettes more addictive," the FDA said.
Menthol cigarettes make up almost one-third of the $70 billion U.S. cigarette market.
Lorillard, maker of Newports, filed a lawsuit to block TPSAC's panel recommendations. The suit argues that there are conflicts of interest among committee members, so they aren't able to provide fair evidence.
Regardless of a possible ban on menthol, Kareema Dennis doesn't believe much will change.
"It doesn't really matter. You're going to find something else to smoke," Kareema Dennis said.
The advisory panel has to report their findings regarding a menthol cigarette ban by March 23, 2011.