Menthol Gets Free Pass in Cigarette Bill

Other flavored smokes face ban, but industry protects cash cow
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2008 1:08 PM CDT
Menthol cigarettes mask the harsh taste of tobacco, making them an easy way to get new smokers hooked.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – Congress is preparing to vote on legislation that would ban almost all flavored cigarettes—except menthol, the most prevalent flavoring of all. The bill would eliminate kinds like cloves and cinnamon that appeal to kids, but make an exception for menthol—which lures new smokers by masking the harshness of tobacco—as a concession to the tobacco industry, the New York Times reports.

Menthol makes up over a quarter of the US cigarette market, and is used by 75% of all African-American smokers. Without the menthol exemption, the bill would have lost the support of Philip Morris’ all-important lobbyists. “I would have been in favor of banning menthol,” said one supporter, urging one step at a time. “But as a practical matter that simply wasn’t doable.”