No Butts About It
Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC
I am about to give an opinion about something I know nothing about and have never experienced. Certainly in a political year, this is commonplace in the media, but I try not to make a habit of it. I definitely will not make a habit of smoking, and this is about smoking, among other things.
It might seem a stretch to consider a severe allergy as a blessing, but being allergic to cigarette smoke was probably a blessing to me. Historically, if someone around me lit something for consumption, I always had to leave or suffer coughing, laryngitis, stuffy nose, runny eyes, and an angry disposition. I never had a temptation to smoke cigarettes or anything else that people inhale.
So when I found an article in the news about cigarettes, I was intrigued at a brand-new issue surrounding this awful addiction. Parenthetically, it is even a little difficult to believe that in the year 2016, given what we know about cigarettes, their detrimental effects, and the addictive nature of nicotine, we are still talking about people smoking cigarettes. Even so, it is still a legal product and can be legally obtained and used by consumers of legal age.
Here is the new twist: An African American physicians group, the African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (I had not heard of them either), sent a letter to Pres. Obama asking him to direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove menthol flavored cigarettes from the market immediately. The unconstitutionality of this is strategy did not apparently enter their calculus. That has never stopped this president from using executive power before.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that 22% of African American males and almost 15% of females smoke cigarettes. CDC has found in surveys that 83% of adult African-American smokers prefer menthol flavor. 72% of juvenile (illegal) African-American smokers also prefer menthol flavor. Because the menthol flavor is so appealing, African-Americans are smoking more frequently, and a nice flavor helps ingest toxins directly into African-American lungs disproportionately. Dr. Phillip Gardner, a co-chair of the leadership Council, stated to NBC news, “The punchline here about menthol is it allows the poisons in tobacco cigarettes to go down easier.”
While no one I know would debate that smoking is healthy or a good idea, the remedy the Council asks is totally outside the law. Can you imagine a country in which someone can petition government to remove a legal product from the market, harming the industry and the workers who comprise it? Remember the coal industry? “What we are asking of you, President Obama, can be accomplished rapidly with the stroke of a pen,” the letter to Obama implored. “Your strong and decisive leadership can give our community a fighting chance against the number one killer of Black people, tobacco."
Ostensibly the goal of the Tobacco Control Leadership Council is to save African-American lives through (another) illegal executive order of the president. They truly believe that if menthol cigarettes are removed from the market by whatever means, African-Americans will live longer, healthier lives.
I find significant, if not stunning, irony in this whole situation. To save African-American lives, they have appealed to a president from a political party who stubbornly and steadfastly supports an organization dedicated from its beginning in the 1920s to the eradication of the black race, and it still works to that end. Can anything be more ironic?
There is a simpler way to deal with this that is perfectly legal. As Nancy Reagan once advised, “Just say no.” Get rid of the cigarettes and embrace health. Let your dollars (or in this case, the lack of dollars) determine whether the cigarette industry lives or dies in the way the free market does best. There are many ways that people can get help breaking this horrible addiction. It seems to me that would be a better way to do it, no butts about it.