(WYTV) – The Food and Drug Administration wants to know: Should it ban menthol-flavored cigarettes?

We’ve had menthol smokes for a hundred years. The first mentholated cigarette was marketed as a “throat cigarette,” a mild local anesthetic.

It has a numbing effect that makes the smoke less harsh, and smokers may not cough as much.

“Without the irritant effect so that they get more nicotine exposure, they can smoke more, they can inhale more deeply, they can hold the smoke longer,” says Dr. J. Taylor Hays of the Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center.

The menthol can increase a smoker’s exposure to a very addictive substance — nicotine — and those who use menthol cigarettes may be more addicted and more dependent.

But that shouldn’t discourage anyone from trying to quit.

More than 18.5 million people smoke menthol cigarettes in this country, most of them young adults and African Americans.

Those are the most likely to be helped with a menthol ban.