Menthol Cigarettes Attracting Teens, Tobacco Industry to Profit
It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes is a dangerous health habit. Even the tobacco industry has owned up to the claim that cigarettes are hazardous to your health. But it now looks like that same industry is working “under the radar” to target (and make money off) a new, younger audience with menthol cigarettes. This “type” of cigarette has become popular with teenagers and now the tobacco industry is being investigated as to the idea that it is taking full advantage of this trend. Let’s take a look . . .
Menthol cigarettes have become popular with teenagers and the tobacco industry is being investigated as to the idea that it is taking advantage of this trend.
In a study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in Boston, Massachusetts, researchers have examined many different areas, such as internal industry documents, market and national survey reports and lab test results, and have determined that the tobacco industry has “manipulated the menthol content of cigarettes to attract young new smokers and encourage them to become dependent on nicotine.”
What is menthol?
Menthol is an organic compound that is found naturally in mint plants. It is also manufactured synthetically. It was first found in the west in peppermint oil in 1771, however, it has been determined that Japan had been using it for even longer.
Where is menthol found?
Menthol’s cooling effect has made it popular for use in products that are meant to “relieve” skin irritation, sore throat or nasal congestion. It has also been used to treat sunburns, fever, or muscle aches. When menthol is used as a supplement for health reasons, it is usually taken as peppermint oil. However, it can also be found in other products, such as toothpaste, cough drops, lip balm, mouthwash, gum and cigarettes.
Why are teens attracted to menthol cigarettes?
Menthol has a physiologically active compound that enhances tobacco smoke’s affect on the human body. A sensation of coolness and local anesthesia that is caused by the monocyclic terpene alcohol, which is found naturally in plants of the Mentha genus, interacts directly with the peripheral nerve endings.
Why is menthol worse?
Clinical studies have shown higher rates of lung cancer and more difficulty quitting among smokers of menthol cigarettes.
According to HSPH, the harshness of cigarettes is masked by menthol, making it easier to deliver an "effective dose of nicotine," which is the part of cigarettes smokers become addicted to. The tobacco companies are using their influence of adding more menthol in cigarettes in hopes to reach the first-time smoker.
Study results: According to the authors of the study, "Tobacco companies manipulate the sensory characteristics of cigarettes, including menthol content, thereby facilitating smoking initiation and nicotine dependence."
"Menthol brands that have used this strategy have been the most successful in attracting youth and young adult smokers and have grown in popularity," researchers added.
What do the researchers recommend?
"To protect the public health, tobacco products should be federally regulated, and additives such as menthol should be included in that regulation,” noted scientists involved in the study.
Another study co-author who is Professor of the Practice of Public Health and Director of the Tobacco Control Research Program at HSPH, Dr Gregory N. Connolly, said, "This is another example of the cynical behavior of the tobacco industry to hook teens . . . to a deadly addiction."
"This is after the industry told the American public it had changed its marketing practices. The FDA bill provides the vehicle to end the hypocrisy and save the lives of the young and a targeted minority group," he added.
A bill was prepared by the FDA and is now before Congress. If it is passed, federal authority will have the power to regulate menthol and other additives in cigarettes.
If you’re a parent or grandparent, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of your children getting hooked on cigarettes at an early age due to the tobacco industry’s tactics. If they choose to use tobacco as an adult, that’s one thing . . . but if the industry is helping them make that decision early on, that’s a completely different story.