Menthol cigarettes contain higher doses of nicotine and entice smokers with their flavor, making them harder to quit. Big Tobacco has been accused of racism, targeting the black community through consistent marketing efforts.
Smoking dangers are not a secret to anyone anymore. Despite the tobacco companies’ claims that their products can be enjoyed safely, there is no denying that smokers die each and every day. In fact, according to John Hopkins, over 440,000 people die every year in the US alone as a result of smoking. Even more die from exposure to secondhand smoke.
While all cigarettes, and all tobacco products in general, are dangerous, some argue that menthol cigarettes may be particularly harmful.
The Dangers of Smoking
According to the Centers for Disease Control, and most other health organizations around the world, smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema/COPD, stroke, asthma, and other chronic adverse health conditions. Additionally, smoking parents and caregivers is a major risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
Smoke from tobacco products contains more than just tar and carbon monoxide, two of the biggest culprits in terms of poor health. Tobacco companies also add thousands of additional chemicals and additives, and even more chemical compounds are formed during the burning process. These chemicals react with additional compounds inside the body as well. Many of the additives found in tobacco products are known to cause cancer and other health problems. Others are poisonous when consumed in high enough quantities.
Smoking leads to immediate airway restriction, drying of the vocal cords, inflammation of mucus membranes in the mouth, throat, and lungs, and decreases oxygen circulation throughout the body. These issues, combined with consistent exposure to dangerous and carcinogenic ingredients, eventually lead to the negative health consequences of smoking.
The Addictive Nature of Cigarettes
If smoking is so dangerous, then why do people continue to do it? It all comes down to the nicotine, a chemical naturally found in tobacco. This chemical causes the “feel good” stress relief related to smoking, but it’s also highly addictive. This is also combined with numerous addictive ingredients found in cigarettes. Further, cravings and withdrawal symptoms are very real, and often unbearable for those who try to quit smoking cold turkey.
Why Menthol Cigarettes are More Dangerous
It has been shown that menthol flavored cigarettes may be more addictive than their regular full-flavor counterparts. This is due, in part, to the nicotine content, but it’s also due to the flavor itself. The added mint in menthol tobacco products make them more soothing, less harsh on the throat, and therefore easier to smoke. The taste, combined with the nicotine, also makes them harder to give up.
Ethical Issues Surrounding Menthol Cigarettes
Tobacco companies have been accused of racism, as their menthol brands are often targeted in marketing materials almost solely to the black community. Menthol cigarettes are smoked by less than 20% of Caucasian smokers, but more than 70% of black smokers choose a menthol variety, according to the BBC. This has led some to suggest that tobacco companies are deliberately marketing a more dangerous product to the black community. Tobacco lobbyists deny this allegation. Even so, the FDA has suggested in the past that menthol sales may need to be more heavily regulated than conventional cigarettes. The conflict this issue has caused is referred to as “The Menthol Wars.”
Those who love the taste of menthol may find it hard to stop smoking. Electronic cigarettes may offer another option, since they offer the same taste, nicotine, and throat hit, but without the negative health consequences. The flavors offered by many e-liquid vendors offer menthol options, usually greater than the options available in traditional cigarettes. NRTs and medications are also available.