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California Anti-Tobacco Forces Targeting Menthol Cigarettes

Photo caption: A pack of Marlboro Menthol cigarettes is shown, on Oct. 5, 2007.

Photo credit: flickr\Matt Kornatz

A pack of Marlboro Menthol cigarettes is shown, on Oct. 5, 2007.

Menthol masks the harshness of tobacco, making it easier to inhale. That makes menthol cigarettes especially popular among young smokers.

Anti-smoking forces in California have found a new target: menthol cigarettes.

Menthol masks the harshness of tobacco, making it easier to inhale. That makes menthol cigarettes especially popular among young smokers.

Last year, Berkeley became the first city in California to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes within 600 feet of parks and schools. Santa Clara County passed a similar ordinance for its unincorporated areas in 2014. Advocates say they'll push the idea in Southern California next.

The tobacco industry opposes such laws, saying there’s no proof that menthol entices young people to smoke.

Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, disagrees.

"Menthol is the starter product for youth," McGruder said. "It helps the poison to go down easier, and if we took all the flavors out of cigarettes, they would become very unpalatable for young people."

In 2009, the FDA banned 13 different flavors in cigarettes, but exempted menthol.

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