There are many brands of cigarettes on the market that contain menthol. Ever wonder why? Menthol is used to help decrease the irritating effects of cigarette smoke so that smokers can tolerate it. The ads for these menthol cigarettes usually show pictures of springtime, water, or other refreshing images. This is how the companies target “beginning“ smokers. The soothing taste makes the cigarette more appealing.
Menthol is currently the only flavor by law that can be added to cigarettes. Studies have shown higher rates of tobacco addiction in those who smoke mentholated cigarettes. Mentholated cigarettes encourage smokers to inhale more deeply, which exposes the airways and the lung tissue to more irritants and carcinogens.
The cigarette industry has seen African Americans as a group with smoking growth potential, and one of the main groups targeted by menthol cigarette advertising. There is some evidence that African Americans are less likely to smoke cigarettes and start smoking later in life than other groups. The cigarette industry has targeted younger African American smokers with more ads in publications with largely African American readership. They provide samples and coupons at sporting and music events with large African American attendance. More than 80% of African American smokers use mentholated cigarettes. They suffer higher rates of smoking related health problems, even though they smoke at similar rates as white Americans. Menthol cigarettes are linked to a higher risk of disease and lower cessation rates, especially in the African American community.