Researchers Uncover How Tobacco Companies Use Menthol

Kool Menthol Ad c. 1975: "The longer you smoke, the more you'll like Kool Super Longs."Harvard School of Public Health researchers combed through tobacco industry documents to find out why the industry adds menthol to cigarettes, and why cigarette brands have differing levels of menthol. Researchers found that tobacco companies use menthol's anesthetic effect to mask the harshness of the smoke and ease throat pain for beginning smokers. Once smokers are addicted, according to documents, they seek cigarettes with increasing levels of menthol to maintain the sensory effects. Tobacco companies respond by making cigarette brands with low levels of menthol for starters, and brands with higher menthol levels for veteran smokers. R.J. Reynolds calls the Harvard study propaganda, and says it is aimed at promoting a federal ban on menthol. The study was published online ahead of print at the Web site of the American Journal of Public Health.