As Americans await a decision from President Joe Biden to potentially end the sale of menthol cigarettes in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there has been an overall increase in the usage of the cigarettes, especially among young people, women and racial and ethnic minorities and the Black community.

It’s vaping these days for teens and young adults, but for Rivquah Caldwell, it was menthol cigarettes she couldn’t wait to smoke when she turned 18.

What You Need To Know

  • In 2020, the CDC stated that approximately 81% of non-Hispanic Black smokers were menthol cigarette users

  • It also stated that menthol has a cooling and addicting effect, which made it easier to smoke and harder to quit

  • The CDC says the tobacco industry uses tailored marketing and advertising to target certain communities

"It was just the norm. From my great-grandmother to my grandmother, my mother and my father, my aunts, my uncles, basically every adult that was around me and my siblings, were smokers...menthol smokers, and Newport 100s, to be exact," said Caldwell, a former smoker.

Now a dedicated mother in her 40s, Caldwell said it’s important that families fight against the harmful habit.

"We need to educate. We need to continue to try to, you know, have restrictions on these stores and companies that are selling, you know, toxic products in our community. And it needs to stop," said Caldwell.

"They’ve really infiltrated the community so that they could addict the population," said Jeanie Orr, program manager for Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities. "They've done, unfortunately, a really good job. And so it's really the marketing that has caused African American smokers to use menthol as such high rates."

Last year, the FDA proposed product standards to prohibit menthol flavor in cigarettes in an attempt to reduce its appeal. It’s on Biden’s desk, awaiting a decision next month.

"It's been in the works for a very long time. In 2009, the Family Prevention Smoking Act was supposed to ban menthol cigarettes. They banned all other characterizing flavors and cigarettes. But that was taken out because there was some lobbying by the tobacco industry," said Orr.

Caldwell feels a ban on menthol cigarettes could transform her community, and she’s advocating hard for it. She says she is lucky that she quit smoking and hopes others can find their reason or purpose to quit.

"I had a choice – continue my smoking or not be around to raise my kids. And I chose to, you know, love myself enough to stop smoking and to be the best mother I can be for my kids," said Caldwell.