Menthol Levels Changed to Promote Teen Smoking

July 17, 2008

Menthol content in cigarettes is one of the ways in which tobacco companies manipulate the sensory characteristics of cigarettes to appeal to adolescents and young adults, according to the results of a study published online July 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.

THURSDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Menthol content in cigarettes is one of the ways in which tobacco companies manipulate the sensory characteristics of cigarettes to appeal to adolescents and young adults, according to the results of a study published online July 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Jennifer M. Kreslake, and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, analyzed data from the tobacco industry reports on menthol product development, testing of menthol brands, market research reports and the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to ascertain the role of menthol content in targeting adolescents and young adults as potential smokers.

Cigarettes with a lower menthol content were popular with young smokers, while long-term smokers were targeted with higher menthol content products, the investigators found. Sales of menthol cigarettes remained stable from 2000 to 2005, during which time the total number of packs sold declined 22 percent, the report indicates.

"Although menthol is not addictive, it may contribute to tobacco addiction by promoting initiation and facilitating inhalation of smoke. Inactive ingredients affect the uptake and action of the active drug ingredients in cigarettes," the authors write. "For decades, tobacco manufacturers have controlled levels of menthol in commercial cigarettes to promote smoking among adolescents and young adults. Manufacturers have marketed brands to this vulnerable population by manipulating sensory elements of cigarettes to promote initiation and dependence."

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