The exemption of menthol from a bill banning flavored cigarettes is causing a rift in the Black Congressional Caucus, the New York Times reports. Some members of the caucus, which has strong financial ties to tobacco companies, argue that menthol cigarettes cause disproportionate harm to blacks and are pushing for a ban. Others say a ban on menthol would sink the bill.
An estimated 75% of black smokers choose menthol brands, and scientists believe that contributes to a higher rate of smoking-related cancer among African-Americans, largely because the smoother taste makes it easier for young smokers to start. Some black lawmakers have branded the menthol exemption discriminatory and are calling for the flavoring to be phased out—and for the caucus to wean itself off tobacco money.