Sales of menthol-flavored cigarettes made up 37% of all cigarette sales in the U.S.

Menthol is one of the most popular flavors added to tobacco products.

Studies reveal that 52% of new people who try smoking began with menthol cigarettes. This percentage is higher with some racial and social groups, as 93.1% of black people who smoke also started with menthol-flavored tobacco products.

Menthol also causes stronger addiction than non-menthol products, especially with youth.

What Is Menthol?

Naturally found in peppermint and other types of mint plants, menthol is also made in labs and is added to various foods, medications, and health items.

In the 1920s, tobacco manufacturers began adding menthol to tobacco products, and today, small amounts of menthol are in most cigarettes sold in the U.S.

Inhaling menthol when smoking or vaping produces a tingly cool feeling that lessens pain and irritation in the airway, reduces coughing, and gives the illusion that the person smoking can breathe better.

Health Effects

Marketing menthol as being “smoother” than non-menthol products may have contributed to more than 19.5 million people being current menthol cigarette smokers.

FDA and CDC warn that menthol tobacco use is more addictive and harder to quit than non-menthol tobacco products.

Using tobacco products, including those with menthol, contributes to many health problems in every part of the body including affecting fertility in both men and women, bone and teeth health, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths.

Who Uses Menthol

Vulnerable populations include: financially disadvantaged, minorities, uninsured, children, elderly, unsheltered, and people with chronic and mental illnesses who lack resources and opportunities that most Americans have, are targeted by the tobacco industry.

Studies show that menthol tobacco products are used more by youth, women, the LGBTQ+ community, those with a mental illness, and racial/ethnic minorities.

The tobacco industry markets menthol by sponsoring community and music events, advertising in community shops and stores, and using displays and images that youth respond to.

Research regarding menthol tobacco use amongst socially and economically disparate groups reveal menthol is preferred by:

  • 36% of LGBTQ
  • 54% of youth ages 12-17 years
  • 70% African American youth ages 12-17 years
  • 76.8% of non-Hispanic black adults

There is a need for more research on menthol use amongst those with mental illnesses. Still, studies reveal a connection between high menthol tobacco use and severe mental hardships, and those who smoke menthol cigarettes have worse mental health than those who do not use menthol products.


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African American Targeting

  • According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 93.1% of African Americans chose a menthol product the first time they tried smoking.
  • There are more tobacco retailers in minority communities, and there are more and larger-sized advertisements.
  • The tobacco industry would financially sponsor scholarships, higher education institutions, and civic, social, and community organizations exclusive to African Americans to attract Black people who smoke. They also use culturally centered advertising, with relatable images of African Americans enjoying menthol tobacco products to appeal to Black America.
  • Nicotine dependence is higher amongst black smokers who are also less successful with quitting.
  • Black people who smoke who use menthol products odds’ of effectively quitting was 12% lower than non-menthol users.
  • Nicotine addiction increases the risk for heart disease, lung illnesses, and many cancers, but this is especially dangerous for a population that already have higher than average health risk factors.
  • 45,000 African Americans die from smoking-related illnesses every year, and more African Americans die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer.
  • Banning menthol flavoring in tobacco products could prevent approximately 1.6 million African American youths from becoming regular smokers.
  • African Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related death of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. 93% of African American people who smoke use menthols, thanks to aggressive menthol tobacco product marketing and increased discounts and promotions in African American neighborhoods.
  • Our state is working to advance fairness and justice in health.  Justice involves addressing major causes of inequalities-like the harm that commercial tobacco causes in communities of color, rural communities, LGBT+, and lower-income communities.

Source: Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids

Menthol Regulations

In 2009 the FDA banned the sale of all flavored cigarettes except menthol through the Family Smoking and Prevention Tobacco Control Act.

Not banning ALL menthol flavored tobacco products has led to increased use amongst high school youths, which studies reveal, prefer e-cigarettes and vapes over traditional cigarettes.

Reports show that after the flavor ban was activated, menthol e-cigarettes sales increased by almost $60 million.