Monday, August 18, 2008

Tobacco companies manipulate menthol levels in cigarettes to addict younger smokers

Reuters Health Day reported on July 16, 2008 on a study which will appear in the September, 2008 issue of the American Journal Of Public Health that finds that tobacco companies are manipulating methol levels in cigarettes to attract and addict young smokers. Here is a snippet from the article:

Tobacco companies are manipulating menthol levels in cigarettes to appeal to newer, younger smokers, part of a deliberate strategy to get younger people, particularly African-Americans, hooked, a new study contends.

Menthol makes cigarettes more palatable to the novice smoker.

"If anything, menthol is being used as a candy to help the toxin go down," said Dr. Gregory Connolly, senior author of a paper being published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health. "If we let the industry go ahead and willy-nilly design the product the way they want to, it's going to lead to the premature death of millions and millions of Americans. Our research says we have to go after this."

A bill pending in Congress would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration power to regulate menthol and other additives in cigarettes.

"This study provides evidence of one of the many ways tobacco companies manipulate the ingredients in cigarettes in an effort to entice and addict new consumers," John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a news release. "Legislation in Congress would give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products and put an end to tobacco industry practices that prey upon children and blatantly mislead adults. The bill would end the marketing of tobacco products to children, force companies for the first time to disclose the ingredients in their products and allow the FDA to regulate all tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, based on science."

Menthol itself is not addictive, but it can ease the "delivery" of nicotine, which is highly addictive. More than 70 percent of African-American smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared with about 30 percent of white smokers. It's unclear if menthol cigarettes are more harmful than "regular" cigarettes, the study authors said.

Connolly and his colleagues looked at internal tobacco-industry documents which showed that companies researched how menthol levels could affect sales among different demographic groups. Cigarettes with milder menthol levels appeal to younger smokers.

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