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Menthol Sensory Qualities and Possible Effects on Topography: A White Paper

  • Author(s): Yerger, Valerie B, ND
  • McCandless, Phyra M, JD, MPH
  • et al.
Abstract

Publicly available internal tobacco industry documents were analyzed to answer the following questions regarding the sensory qualities of menthol and its possible effects on topography: 1) What properties does menthol contribute to the smoking experience? 2) Does menthol contribute to the sensory qualities of the smoke and affect smoking topography? 3) Do changes in smoking topography lead to greater exposure to toxic substances, increased nicotine dependence, or greater chance of tobacco-related disease? 4) What are the various ways menthol is measured and how are menthol yields determined? 5) Does the menthol content and/or yield have an effect on how the cigarette is smoked or cigarette preference? 6) What is the relationship between menthol and intensity in use of cigarettes (i.e., does menthol lead to a higher delivery of smoke per cigarette)? A final collection of 252 documents was analyzed for this report, of which 67 were deemed relevant to one or more of the research questions and cited in this paper. Our analyses of the documents indicate the following: 1) Menthol has cooling and anesthetic properties that moderate the harshness and irritation of tobacco; 2) Menthol contributes to the sensory qualities of the smoke and affects smoking behavior and cigarette preference depending on the level of menthol and nicotine in the cigarette; 3) It is unclear whether menthol’s effect on smoking behavior leads to greater exposure to toxic substances; 4) Menthol is measured in milligrams or micrograms that are distilled from a cigarette before and after smoking; 5) It is unclear whether the menthol content and/or yield have an effect on how a cigarette is smoked because most testing that we were able to locate in the documents was done on new mentholated products by in-house smoker panels; and 6) It is unclear what the tobacco industry knew about the relationship between menthol and intensity in use of cigarettes. The documents provide evidence that cigarette manufacturers not only use menthol as a flavorant, but also as an ingredient that has physiological effects, and synergistically interacts with nicotine.

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