*Once a niche product smoked mainly by women, menthols became the cigarette of choice for black smokers thanks in part to targeted marketing in urban centers and in publications aimed at black readers.

Now the Food and Drug Administration is considering a ban on menthol cigarettes, fueling a debate about how such a move would impact African Americans. The FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee has been reviewing the health effects of menthol cigarettes for the past year and is due to submit its final report and recommendations to the agency any day.

The FDA usually, but not always, goes along with its advisory panels. However, Lorillard, maker of Newports, and R.J. Reynolds, maker of Kools, filed a lawsuit Feb. 25 to block the committee’s recommendations. The suit alleges that the committee can’t provide fair advice because three members have conflicts of interest.

Drafts of a few chapters posted online recently provide a preview of the panel’s report: While there is insufficient evidence to conclude that menthol smokers are more likely to be diagnosed with tobacco-caused diseases than non-menthol smokers, “the evidence is sufficient to conclude that it is biological(ly) plausible that menthol makes cigarette smoking more addictive.”

Read MORE at USA Today.