The Biden administration wants to ban menthol cigarettes because menthol cigarettes, long most popular among communities of color, have been targeted by advocacy groups that believe menthol cigarettes are a “gateway” product in the mistaken belief that menthol cigarettes aren’t as “harsh” as regular cigarettes.
That’s hogwash. Menthol cigarettes are not smoother than regular cigarettes, says the former smoker who used to smoke them. That’s just tobacco company propaganda.
Menthol cigarettes are harsher than unflavored cigarettes. Anyone who doesn’t know this has never smoked a menthol cigarette.
Having said that, my real pet peeve is the very idea of banning menthol cigarettes instead of banning ALL cigarettes.
Banning ready-made cigarettes will not end smoking, but it will slow smokers down. Rolling your own is an acquired skill. It takes only a second to whip out a ready-made cigarette, but it takes upwards of a minute to roll your own…and when you are rolling your own, you can’t do anything else. You can drive a car, use a cell phone or even walk down the street while you are rolling a cigarette. Try it sometime, if you don’t believe me.
In the tobacco industry’s neverending campaign to murder their customers, the introduction of filtered cigarettes actually increased the disease and death rates from tobacco smoking exponentially. Note the dramatic increase in the number of smokers – and the number of dead smokers – that coincided with the introduction of filtered cigarettes.
They were invented in 1936 but did not become popular until after the Korean War., which is exactly the market in which the cancer rates from smoking began to soar in the early 1960s.
This was due, in part, to the distribution of free cigarettes to soldiers in WW2 and Korea. Cigarettes were packaged into both C rations (beginning in 1938) and K rations (beginning in 1942.) Those free cigarettes, included with every meal, hooked a generation of American soldiers on tobacco who would otherwise have never started smoking. The military stopped distributing cigarettes when the MREs were introduced in 1981.
The inclusion of free cigarettes in military rations from 1938 to 1981 was one of the greatest achievements of homicidal capitalism, making the U.S. government complicit in getting two generations of Americans hooked on tobacco. (And it didn’t stop there, because the wives of those veterans acquired the habit from their husbands. Women in the military were far less prone to smoking because smoking in public didn’t become acceptable for women until after World War II.)
Banning ready-made cigarettes will not end the smoking epidemic. There’s always cigars, pipes, and hookahs if you can’t get the hang of rolling your own. The government can’t very well ban cigars, and cigars – which are intrinsically less harmful than cigarettes unless, like Ulysses S. Grant, you smoked twenty or more of them per day – because very few people know how to roll a good cigar.
Die-hard smokers can even buy a very efficient, cheap machine that will roll a very neat cigarette for you if you can’t roll your own or don’t want to. You can even roll your own filtered cigarettes using one of those machines. I used to do that, too.
The point is that forcing everyone to roll their own would (a) significantly decrease the cost of smoking because loose tobacco is cheaper, (b) cut deeply into tobacco company profits, and (c) reduce the adverse health effects of smoking upon smokers and on the society that has to take care of sick smokers by slowing the smoker’s smoking down.
Trying to ban menthol cigarettes is an absurdity on top of an insanity because you can buy loose mentholated rolling tobacco and roll your own menthol cigarettes, which is exactly what will happen if menthol cigarettes are banned.
I quit smoking in 1981, when my son was born. I have COPD, so far only a relatively mild case. I used to steal my grandfather’s mentholated cigarettes when I was a kid. When he gave me his 1962 Ford Fairlane (loved that car) I discovered that the yellow plastic headliner wasn’t actually yellow. It was stained with cigarette smoke. I was already a smoker by then, having started at the age of 12.
The reason that cigarettes and other tobacco products have not been banned is that federal, state, and local governments all earn very significant tax revenues on the sale of tobacco products.
The federal government earns approximately $1 per pack of cigarettes, and that’s on top of state and local taxes. On average, state governments earn $1.91 per pack.
When was the last time your state opted to eliminate a product on which the state was earning “sin-taxes” on a consumer purchase? Ever heard of that happening? Me neither.
One of the reasons that we are still burning gasoline in our vehicles (instead of alcohol or hydrogen gas) is that state and federal governments are earning huge revenues on gasoline taxes…and that’s also the reason that we still see cigarettes for sale everywhere, although the once-ubiquitous cigarette vending machine is now only an unpleasant memory.
How this for a blast from the past: I can remember when there were vending machines in the New York City subway system that dispensed five packs of cigarettes in the exact same packaging that cigarettes were once distributed in those C and K rations. I can even remember when they took those vending machines away. They were attached to the metal girders that held up the roofs over the subway stations. When I started riding the subways in 1962, smoking was still allowed on the subway platforms and people smoked in the cars all the time.
I can also remember sitting in the first row of the non-smoking coach section of an airplane, which was right behind the last row of seats in the first-class smoking section. Aircraft cabins used to be arranged that way so that the non-smoking first-class passengers did not have to breathe in the smoke from the first-class smoking section.
So, the federal government will have to go to war with the states over a menthol cigarette ban…and that’s one battle in which the majority of the Blue states might find themselves aligned with the Red states on at least this one issue.
Criminal capitalism strikes again.