- Menthol in cigarettes is likely connected with stronger addiction due to its appealing taste and its potentially soothing and anesthetic features, making the taste of cigarette smoke less severe.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling for public input on available research and data regarding menthol in cigarettes, as it determines the appropriate regulatory decision.
- Despite contention, some studies suggest menthol’s presence might increase smoking initiation among youth and young adults, and complicate quitting for established smokers.
- Recent studies suggest that the risk of lung cancer might be lower among those who smoke menthol cigarettes, adding another layer to the discussion about the risks and regulations of menthol cigarettes.
- Future research might investigate genetic variations to reveal why some individuals are more prone to menthol cigarette addiction and how menthol in cigarettes impacts brain pleasure.
The appealing taste of mint in menthol cigarettes simplifies the process for youngsters keen on trying smoking and complicates the withdrawal process for active smokers, according to American researchers.
Reviewing available studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration observed that, while there isn’t an abundance of evidence to show whether menthol cigarettes are riskier than their non-menthol counterparts, there are indications that “menthol usage probably encourages the initiation of smoking among the youth and young adults”.
Moreover, the investigation reveals that “menthol’s presence in cigarettes is likely connected with greater addiction as menthol smokers exhibit more symptoms of nicotine dependence and struggle more to quit smoking successfully”.
Evidence points to menthol’s “soothing and anesthetic features” making the taste of cigarette smoke seem less severe and thereby possibly raising the public health risks compared to non-menthol cigarettes.
The FDA has shared these findings with the public, to invite “all comments, data, research, and further information” within the next 60 days to ascertain the appropriate regulatory decision regarding the use of menthol in cigarettes.
In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, thus granting the FDA the authority to regulate the tobacco industry.
The Controversy Around Menthol in Cigarettes
Menthol, primarily known as an ingredient in medicinal products like cough drops, has been a contentious component in cigarettes. As per the American Legacy Foundation, menthol’s effects include “masking the tobacco flavor and lessening the throat discomfort associated with smoking, especially for first-time users.”
Dr. Brad Rodu, a medicine professor and the endowed chair of tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville, argues that “Studies have failed to provide conclusive evidence that menthol plays a significant role in smoking initiation, nicotine addiction or cessation.”
However, new research indicates that the presence of menthol could potentially affect the ability for nicotine to bind with “receptors” in cells. “This is a highly crucial scientific discovery because if indeed menthol alters the effects of nicotine on its target receptor in the brain, then it’s quite likely to contribute to nicotine addiction,” states review author and neuroscientist, Nadine Kabbani.
The Future of Menthol Research
So, what’s the future for menthol in cigarettes? Kabbani believes that future research concerning genetic variations could shed more light on why some individuals are more prone to menthol cigarette addiction. Furthermore, tests in mice might reveal how menthol in cigarettes impacts brain pleasure.
Meanwhile, amidst calls for a menthol ban, Rodu contends that the risk of lung cancer is actually lower among those who smoke menthol cigarettes compared to other cigarette smokers. This claim stems from the findings of two recent studies, adding another layer to the ongoing debate about the risks and regulations of menthol cigarettes.
For more about smoking, the U.S. National Library of Medicine has helpful resources.