All About Menthol

The chemical compound menthol makes cigarettes easier to smoke and harder to quit. Menthol creates a cooling effect, reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke and suppresses coughing. Those effects may make menthol cigarettes more appealing to young, inexperienced smokers, and research shows that they are more likely to addict youth.


  • Menthol is a chemical compound extracted from peppermint or corn mint plants, or created synthetically. It reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke due to its characteristic cooling effects on the mouth and thr
    oat. It also suppresses the coughing reflex, which makes inhaling smoke from cigarettes more tolerable.
  • Menthol was first added to cigarettes in the 1920s and 1930s, and became widespread in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Although most cigarettes contain some menthol, certain brands use menthol in greater quantities, making it detectible as a characterizing flavor. Tobacco manufacturers market and advertise those brands as “menthol cigarettes.”
  • Current law prohibits the use of characterizing flavorings in cigarettes, except for menthol.

Menthol creates a cooling effect, reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke and suppresses coughing. These effects may make menthol cigarettes more appealing to young, inexperienced smokers.


  • Most African-American youth smokers use menthol cigarettes. From 2008 to 2010, 94.9 percent of African-American youth current smokers used menthol cigarettes. Other racial and ethnic groups used them in lower numbers, including just over half — 51.3 percent — of white youth current smokers.
  • From 2008 to 2010, the prevalence of menthol cigarette use among young adult current smokers (aged 18 to 25) was 93.9 percent among African-Americans, compared with 36.3 percent among whites, 47.3 percent among Hispanics and 49.7 percent among Asian-Americans.
  • In 2010, the prevalence of menthol cigarette use among current adult smokers was 36.3 percent among LGBT smokers, compared with 29.3 percent among heterosexual smokers. This difference was even more pronounced among LGBT female smokers (42.9 percent) compared with heterosexual female smokers (32.4 percent).


Menthol cigarettes offer no health benefit to smokers, and, in fact, are easier to start smoking and more difficult to quit than regular cigarettes. Truth Initiative® agrees with the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee that menthol cigarettes pose a threat to public health above and beyond that posed by regular cigarettes.

  • Menthol flavoring contributes to addiction in youth smokers.
  • There are no health benefits associated with smoking menthol cigarettes, compared with smoking non-menthol cigarettes.
  • Menthol cigarettes are as dangerous to an individual’s health as non-menthol cigarettes, and menthol cigarette smokers are as likely to experience premature morbidity and mortality as non-menthol cigarette smokers.
  • Adult menthol smokers report taking less time to have their first cigarette after waking than non-menthol smokers. Time to first cigarette is an important measure of nicotine addiction.
  • Scientific evidence indicates that adult menthol smokers are less likely than non-menthol smokers to successfully quit smoking despite increased quit intentions and quit attempts. Studies show significantly reduced rates of quitting among African-American and Hispanic menthol smokers compared with non-menthol smokers.


  • Menthol makes up a large portion — 35 percent in 2016 — of the cigarette market in the U.S.
  • The tobacco industry has a well-documented history of developing and marketing mentholated brands to racial and ethnic minorities and youth.
  • Evidence from tobacco industry documents shows that the industry studied smokers’ menthol preferences and manipulated menthol levels to appeal to a variety of smokers, including adolescents and young adults.
  • Evidence from tobacco industry documents also shows that tobacco companies specifically targeted African-Americans with menthol cigarette advertising.
  • A 2011 review found that menthol marketing is higher in publications and venues that appeal to African-American audiences.
  • Numerous studies show targeted marketing of menthol cigarettes at the point of sale in African- American communities throughout the U.S.



The following information came from: From the Truth Initiative