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Chem Res Toxicol. 2011 Oct 17;24(10):1744-53. doi: 10.1021/tx200285s. Epub 2011 Sep 19.

Effect of cigarette menthol content on mainstream smoke emissions.

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  • 1Tobacco Exposure Research Laboratory, Battelle Memorial Institute, 505 King Avenue, Columbus, OH 43201, United States.


The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act empowered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to study "the impact of the use of menthol in cigarettes on the public health, including such use among children, African Americans, Hispanics and other racial and ethnic minorities," and develop recommendations. Current scientific evidence comparing human exposures between menthol and nonmenthol smokers shows mixed results. This is largely because of the many differences between commercial menthol and nonmenthol cigarettes other than their menthol content. We conducted an innovative study using two types of test cigarettes: a commercial nonmenthol brand that we mentholated at four different levels, and Camel Crush, a commercial cigarette containing a small capsule in the filter that releases menthol solution into the filter when crushed. Cigarettes were machine-smoked at each of the menthol levels investigated, and the total particulate matter (TPM) was collected on a quartz fiber filter pad and analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry for menthol, nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cotinine, and quinoline. The mainstream smoke was also monitored continuously in real time on a puff-by-puff basis for seven gas-phase constituents (acetaldehyde, acetonitrile, acrylonitrile, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, isoprene, and 2,5-dimethylfuran), using a proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometer. Average yields (in micrograms/cigarette) for the analytes were determined. Menthol in the TPM samples increased linearly with applied menthol concentration, but the amounts of nicotine along with the target TSNAs, PAHs, cotinine, and quinoline in the cigarettes remained essentially unchanged. Similarly, yields of the targeted volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in whole smoke from the mentholated nonmenthol cigarettes that were measured in real-time were largely unaffected by their menthol levels. In the Camel Crush cigarettes, however, the VOC yields appeared to increase in the presence of menthol, especially in the gas phase. Although we succeeded in characterizing key mainstream smoke constituents in cigarettes that differ only in menthol content, further study is needed to definitively answer whether menthol affects exposure to selected cigarette constituents and thereby influences harm.

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