Menthol Cigarettes Could Be More Harmful

Many people prefer to smoke menthol cigarettes because they believe there's a lower concentration of nicotine. However, science has debunked this myth.
Menthol Cigarettes Could Be More Harmful

Last update: 24 June, 2021

Although, for a long time, menthol cigarettes have been the “good” option for those who seek to minimize the adverse effects of tobacco, science has proven that these could actually be more harmful than the normal ones. So, in this article, we’ll focus on some of the research that supports this hypothesis.

Before delving deeper into this topic, we’d like to point out that efforts to reduce tobacco consumption seem to be echoed. According to the World Health Organization’s Global Report on Trends in Tobacco Use Prevalence between 2000 and 2025, the total number of smokers in the world decreased by 60 million people between 2000 and 2018.

The nicotine it contains is the cause of addiction and, according to a research report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the release of endorphins produced by consuming it leads people to want more.

At first, the substance raises dopamine levels. But, over time, it ends up altering circuits linked to learning, stress, and self-control.

Use of menthol in cigarettes

The first commercial brand to add menthol to its cigarettes was Spud® in the 1920s. The marketing promise of most companies is a fresh flavor in the mouth after consumption.

Added to this is the trend of menthol cigarette consumption among the young population. According to Spain’s National Committee for the Prevention of Smoking (CNTP), the hypothesis is that the pleasant taste that menthol produces may facilitate initiation in this population.

Among the reasons for the greater preference is the ease with which the smoke enters and reduced irritation. At the same time, there’s a false belief in the community that has, for decades, seen the use of menthol as beneficial.

An article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has pointed out that African-American smokers and members of other ethnic minorities are the focus of advertising for menthol cigarettes. This, of course, only ends up reinforcing consumption among these groups.

Why are menthol cigarettes more dangerous?

Many smokers of menthol cigarettes feel that they’re easier to smoke. However, there are physiological processes that they’re unaware of, which increase the damage. Although they cool the throat, the effect of the menthol that reduces the dry sensation makes smokers inhale the smoke more deeply and retain it for a longer time. This American Cancer Society explains this phenomenon.

At the same time, studies indicate that this sensation occurs because menthol acts as an anesthetic for the respiratory tract. On the one hand, this suggests less discomfort for smokers. But, on the other hand, it could mean an increase in the number of cigarettes a person smokes per day. And this aggravates and accelerates the adverse effects.

A person holding a cigarette over and ashtray full of cigarette butts.
Cigarette consumption has declined worldwide, but remains a major cause of fatal disease on the planet.

Menthol in electronic cigarettes

Now, there’s no doubt that the menthol in traditional cigarettes causes serious damage to health. But not as much as that caused by the menthol used in electronic cigarettes. In addition to the origin of these types of products, the damage they cause is due to the presence of other harmful substances.

Studies indicate that there’s evidence of serious pulmonary lesions associated with the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping. For example, we can mention the so-called EVALI outbreak. This disease has symptoms that are similar to those of pneumonia (cough, fever, and shortness of breath).

The reason? Apparently, it could be the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and vitamin E acetate.

Pulegone

At the same time, and no less important, we find the source product that gives cigarettes their menthol flavor. According to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected high amounts of pulegone in the liquids consumed in menthol e-cigarettes.

This substance is one of the components of peppermint, spearmint, and pennyroyal oil extracts. The problem with its consumption lies in the fact that it’s been reported as a potent carcinogen, according to tests involving rodents.

Such is its impact that, in 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use as a food additive. Due to the multiple alerts that have been issued about its threat to health, U.S. tobacco companies have begun to minimize the levels of pulegone they use.

Finally, it’s important to note that research is taking place to establish the risks associated with the inhalation of this substance and others present in electronic cigarettes. So far, research suggests that the risk’s higher in comparison to traditional consumption.

Cigarette as a cause of cancer

According to a report by the World Health Organization, smoking causes the death of 8 million people per year. Of these, more than 40% have to do with diseases such as lung cancer, COPD, and tuberculosis.

For its part, the National Cancer Institute of Spain points out that tobacco’s the main cause of cancer and death from this disease in the world. This is due to the chemical compounds it contains, which can cause DNA damage.

The most common types of cancer that develop from this cause are lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, liver, kidney, colon, and cervix. It’s important to point out that tobacco also affects those who consume it indirectly.

Experts have identified more than 4,000 chemicals of unknown origin in tobacco smoke. Of these, they’ve classified some 250 as harmful, including 50 carcinogens.

A young man exhaling cigarette smoke.
Tobacco smoke contains a large amount of harmful substances that cause cancer and serious chronic illnesses, such as COPD.

It’s possible to quit smoking!

Whether you use menthol or traditional cigarettes, when you want to quit, you may develop withdrawal symptoms. As we mentioned, nicotine is one of the main substances that cause dependence.

Quitting this habit will prevent you from developing serious diseases, such as cancer. In addition, you’ll also prevent your family or close friends from being affected by the side effects of smoke in the environment.

To facilitate the quitting process, it may be necessary to seek professional help and have the support of a doctor. If this is your case, don’t be afraid or ashamed. Your life is worth it.

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