Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids Amplifies False Claim from the Council on Foreign Relations


A recent Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids newsletter touting its crusade to rid the world of tobacco products put the spotlight on menthol cigarettes:

“Due in large part to the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing of menthol cigarettes, Black Americans die at higher rates from cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. A new analysis from the Council on Foreign Relations [CFR] finds a U.S. ban on menthol cigarettes would quickly close disparities in lung cancer death rates among Black Americans.”

As that statement didn’t ring true, I fact-checked the CFR report and confirmed that it stated, “Both incidence and mortality from lung cancer is higher among Black Americans than their white counterparts,” citing CDC data. 

The CDC Wonder Website is the premier authority for U.S. mortality statistics.  Using their numbers, I analyzed deaths from cancers of the larynx, trachea, bronchus and lung (hereafter lung cancer mortality rate, or LCMR) among persons age 35+ years from 2012 to 2016, the latest years in the dataset.  Results are age-adjusted, comparable and expressed as deaths per 100,000 persons per year (or 100,000 person-years, p-y).

It is true that Black men have the highest LCMR, at 126 deaths per 100,000 p-y; white men are next, at 104.  Women have lower LCMRs in general because they smoke at lower rates.  The LCMR among white women is 70, but the rate among Black women is even lower, at 64.  

CFR’s causal statement is wrong anyway, as these facts remain: 1) Burning tobacco and inhaling the smoke for decades produces lung cancer and other smoking-related fatal illnesses; 2) the same cannot be said of either nicotine or menthol.



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