Study: Young Smokers Lured With Menthol
Researchers Say Tobacco Companies Manipulate Menthol to Attract Youngsters, but Industry Denies It
WebMD News Archive
Menthol and Cigarettes: Industry Responds
The tobacco industry disagrees with the study findings. The conclusions made
in the study are not supported by the facts cited, says Bill Phelps, a
spokesman for Altria Group, the market company of Philip Morris USA, which
makes Marlboro, Alpine, Virginia Slims and other brands.
"Excerpts from several marketing documents from Philip Morris USA are
used in the study report," he says. "All of them talk about adult
smokers. We don't think kids should use tobacco and our marketing goal is to
find ways to effectively and responsibly connect our brands with adult
"We disagree with the study's conclusion that the menthol levels in our
products were manipulated to gain market share among adolescents."
Menthol and Cigarettes: Second Opinions
The study is "expanding on the science of menthol," says Neal
Benowitz, MD, a professor of medicine and biopharmaceutical sciences at the
University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and a long-time
researcher on nicotine addiction. "It adds understanding about how tobacco
companies design cigarettes with respect to the amount of menthol."
"The question of whether they are specifically targeted to adolescents
is hard to say."
But in his opinion, based on his research and others, the menthol can make
the cigarette taste better. "There is some evidence that those who smoke
menthol have a harder time quitting," he tells WebMD. And some research
suggests they may have a higher rate of relapse once they do try to quit, he
"Menthol makes the nicotine more addictive," he believes.
Another expert agrees. "While the direct contribution of menthol to the
addiction and harm caused by cigarettes is not clear, there is no question that
use of the substance can essentially grease the path to addiction and
associated diseases," says Jack Henningfield, PhD, vice president of
research and health policy at Pinney Associates, a health consulting and risk
management firm in Bethesda, Md. and professor and director of the Innovators
Awards Program at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
The Harvard researchers call for federal regulation of tobacco products,
including additives such as menthol.
Phelps says Philip Morris USA has supported FDA regulation of tobacco
products for seven years.
Congress is considering that option. At the present time, according to the
Harvard researchers, no regulatory agency has the authority to address the
issue of menthol content of cigarettes.