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Nicotine Tob Res. 2010 Dec;12 Suppl 2:S85-93. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntq176.

Menthol cigarettes: moving toward a broader definition of harm.

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Social and Behavioral Sciences, Public Health and Public Policy, Neurosciences and Nicotine Dependence, Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, University of California Office of the President, Oakland, CA 94612-3550, USA.



The current practice of the tobacco industry of primarily focusing on the extent that menthol cigarettes contribute or do not contribute to excess morbidity and mortality in various diseases does not, in and of itself, fully illuminate the harm caused by these products. In fact, this practice actually masks and obscures the public health harm associated with menthol cigarettes. Given this, this commentary develops and presents a broader definition of harm in which to view menthol cigarettes and as the necessary and underlying rationale of why this candy-flavored ingredient should be removed from all tobacco products.


This paper relies on the scientific presentations of the 2nd Conference on Menthol Cigarettes, and the peer-reviewed literature on menthol cigarettes.


A broader definition of harm from menthol cigarettes must be analyzed from a broad public health perspective and take into account youth uptake and initiation, menthol's ability to augment addiction through unique sensory properties, spurious health messages associated with these products, menthol's role in cessation inhibition and relapse promotion, and the blatant predatory marketing of these products to the most vulnerable sectors of society.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should apply the same logic that outlawed other candy flavorings and apply it to menthol cigarettes; in the end, all candy flavorings, including menthol, only serve to make the poisons inherent in tobacco smoke go down easier. Additionally, the mobilization of communities most affected by the menthol cigarettes, the FDA, and candy flavorings and the tobacco industry's machinations will be discussed.

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