Menthol Cigarettes and their Dangers: Hiding Danger in Flavor

Closeup of cigarette on ashtray with a wisp of smoke

What is a Menthol Cigarette?

A menthol cigarette is a modified cigarette which contains the compound menthol. Menthol is a product produced naturally by mint plants and turned into different flavors for us to enjoy. It offers a cooling sensation which in turn, we use to deal with pain and soreness. Menthol cigarettes also usually contain higher doses of nicotine and entice smokers with their flavor, making them harder to quit.

Do Menthol Cigarettes Increase the Risk of Lung Cancer?

You may be asking, ‘Don’t Cigarettes already increase the risk of lung cancer?’ Of course, you would be correct. Though, how much does menthol add to that risk, is it higher or lower? A study published by Oxford Academic examined smokers aged 40-74. From 1981 to 2000 these people were asked questions about their smoking habits from the last 20 years. The only information the analysts gathered were the type of cigarette brands they were smoking – menthol, regular or other flavors.

From the data gathered the study had shown that there was no real increase in the risk of cancer with smoking cigarettes that contained menthol over smoking regular cigarettes. So why is there a worry around menthol in cigarettes? It all comes down to how flavoring cigarettes make it easier for people to become addicted – especially teenagers.

Why Debate over Menthol Cigarettes?

Flavoring our tobacco with menthol has been around since the 1920’s, so why now is it becoming a heated debate? First of all, menthol flavoring accounts for about a third of the $65 Billion tobacco industry. That is a huge chunk of the market to lose to a ban. The big problem with flavored tobacco is it opens a gateway to underage smokers. Masking the harsh and toxic taste with a cooling and soothing flavor is a sure way to appeal to a wider market.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “Nearly 9 of every 10 African American smokers (88.5%) aged 12 years and older prefer menthol cigarettes.”  If you take those numbers into account, you can see just how addicting menthol can be. Though we have to point out, there is no definitive proof that menthol is more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes.

Why are Menthol Cigarettes more Dangerous

It is due, in part, to the nicotine content, but it is also due to the flavor itself. The added mint in menthol tobacco products makes them more soothing, less harsh on the throat, and therefore easier to smoke. The taste, combined with the nicotine, also makes them harder to give up.

Do Menthol Cigarettes Crystallize Your Lungs?

There is a myth about menthol cigarettes and their ability to crystallize your lungs. Fortunately, it is just a myth; there is no evidence supporting crystals forming in a person’s lungs from inhaling menthol. Although, the myth may have spread because of its cooling and soothing effects. Some people may have compared the cooling effects in their lungs as to having ice crystals or “crystallized lungs”.  

Ethical Issues Surrounding Menthol Cigarettes

Tobacco companies have been accused of racism, as their menthol brands are often targeted in marketing materials almost solely to the black community. Menthol cigarettes are smoked by less than 20% of Caucasian smokers, but more than 70% of black smokers choose a menthol variety, according to the BBC. This has led some to suggest that tobacco companies are deliberately marketing a more dangerous product to the black community. Tobacco lobbyists deny this allegation. Even so, the FDA has suggested in the past that menthol sales may need to be more heavily regulated than conventional cigarettes. The conflict this issue has caused is referred to as “The Menthol Wars.”

Conclusion

With any flavored tobacco, there are always going to be issues with addicting a younger crowd. Hiding the dangers of cigarettes with menthol is just one of many ways the tobacco industry is trying to keep their share of the market. With the loom of a potential ban, we can be sure that the cigarette manufacturers will find any way to keep them around.

One Comment

  1. I smoked Kool cigarettes for50 years. I am s European American. Male.I loved these cigarettes and quitting was almost impossible. I tried all of the medically approved methods to no avail. I went to hypnosis and smoked on the way home. Finally, I found a menthol electronic cigarette brand that I love. In fact it is the only brand I buy. Following this, it was very easy to stop smoking Kool. I look on this electronic brand with the same love that I felt for Kool. In fact, it is much more satisfying.

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