The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 prohibits the sale of flavored cigarettes, including mint, however menthol flavored cigarettes are exempt from this regulation and still currently sold. Menthol is added to over 90% of tobacco products, whether they are labeled “menthol” or not, suggesting that menthol is not simply a flavor or brand, but rather is likely to have a complex interaction with nicotine which is not fully understood.

Use of Menthol Cigarettes

Menthol cigarettes have been found to be used at a higher rate by 12-17 and 18-25 year olds than older adults. Although adolescent rates of non-mentholated cigarette smoking decreased between 2004-2010, rates of menthol smoking remained constant in this group.

Differential trends in cigarette smoking in the USA: is menthol slowing progress?
(Tobacco Control, 2013)

Menthol cigarette and smoking initiation: a tobacco industry perspective
(Tobacco Control, 2011) 

Menthol Cigarette Smoking Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adults
(American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2014)

Menthol Cigarette Use Among Racial and Ethnic Groups in the United States 2004-2008
(Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2010)

Menthol Cigarette Use: The Challenge to Improve Measurement and Monitoring Among Adolescent Smokers
(Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2011)

Health and Menthol Cigarette Smoking

Menthol cigarettes have been thought to be harder to quit and may contribute to an excess lung cancer burden among black men in the United States, but data on this topic  is still limited and emerging. More information is needed to determine the potential health consequences from smoking menthol cigarettes compared with non-mentholated cigarettes. Research suggests that younger smokers, and racial/ethnic minority smokers may find it harder to quit menthol cigarette smoking. Adding menthol to cigarettes increases the fine particulate matter in cigarette smoke which has immediate adverse effects on the risk of heart attack.

Do smokers of menthol cigarettes find it harder to quit smoking?
(Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 2010)

Lung Cancer Risk Among Smokers of Menthol Cigarettes
(Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2011)

Menthol Cigarettes and Public Health: Review of Scientific Evidence and Recommendations
(Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, 2011)

Marketing and Industry Knowledge of Menthol Cigarettes

It has been demonstrated that tobacco-related health disparities are perpetuated by heavier marketing of these products in minority areas. Tobacco industry documents reveal that the purposeful marketing of menthol cigarettes to specific and demographic groups including African Americans, young people, and women. These documents also reveal that menthol products have been marketed healthier than non-mentholated cigarettes. Cigarette companies use menthol’s ability to mask irritation and provide sensory effects to make menthol cigarettes appeal to young people.

Disparities and Menthol Marketing: Additional Evidence in Support of Point of Sale Policies
(International Journal of Research and Public Health, 2013)

Marketing of menthol cigarettes and consumer perceptions: a review of tobacco industry documents
(Tobacco Control, 2011)

Menthol: putting the pieces together
(Tobacco Control, 2011) 

The African Americanization of menthol cigarette use in the United States
(Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2004)