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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Marketing of Menthol Cigarettes and Consumer Perceptions: A White Paper


Publicly available internal tobacco industry documents were analyzed to answer the following questions regarding menthol cigarette marketing and consumer perception: 1) Are/were menthol cigarettes marketed with health reassurance messages? 2) What other messages come from menthol cigarette advertising? 3) How do smokers view menthol cigarettes? 4) Were menthol cigarettes marketed to specific populations? More than 800 relevant documents were identified on 1) marketing menthol with health assurance messages; 2) user imagery-focused marketing; 3) consumer perceptions of menthol products; and 4) targeting specific populations. Analyses indicated menthol cigarettes were marketed as, and are perceived by consumers to be, healthier than non-menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes are also marketed to specific social and demographic groups, including African Americans, young people, and women, and are perceived by consumers to signal social group belonging. From analyses of these documents, it is concluded that marketing emphasizing menthol may attract consumers who may not otherwise progress to regular smoking, including young, inexperienced users and those who find “regular” cigarettes undesirable.

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