WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- Members of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington are at odds over a proposal to outlaw menthol cigarettes, The New York Times reported.
The caucus still receives political contributions from the tobacco industry, a complication that has divided the 43-member group as Congress works on legislation to authorize the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco, the newspaper said.
Tobacco's health impact on African-Americans is particularly at issue in the debate.
A provision of the bill being debated would outlaw flavored cigarettes as a way to cut down on smoking by young people. However, menthol is excluded from the proposed ban, the newspaper said.
Menthol flavored brands account for more than one-fourth of the $70 billion U.S. cigarette market, and the exemption for menthol is regarded as a compromised that was needed to win wider support in Congress for the overall bill.
Researchers have estimated 75 percent of black smokers prefer mentholated brands, The Times said.
The Harvard School of Public Health said this month the tobacco industry manipulates menthol content to hook young smokers. Public health experts said in May exempting menthol from a ban on flavored cigarettes shows the power the tobacco industry has over the U.S. Congress.