This website provides scientific information about menthol and its use in cigarettes. Your host is William R. True, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Research and Development for Lorillard Tobacco Company. Dr. True joined Lorillard Tobacco Company in 2002. Earlier in his career, he worked in executive and scientific positions for major U.S. corporations. He has a doctorate in organic chemistry from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
In 2009, a new federal law - the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act - set in motion a science-based process to evaluate any health effects of menthol cigarettes. One provision of the law mandates that the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) submit a report and recommendation on the use of menthol in cigarettes to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
After TPSAC issued its non-binding report to the FDA in March 2011, the FDA began its own assessment of menthol. TPSAC's non-binding report is available here; the Industry Report on Menthol to the FDA is located here. The Industry Report demonstrates that a menthol cigarette is no more dangerous than a non-menthol cigarette and should be regulated no differently. The Industry Report further showed that the countervailing effects of any restriction in availability, including the likelihood of creating an underground contraband market, would overwhelm any potential public health benefit.
Lorillard believes that the scientific evidence does not show that menthol cigarettes are more harmful than nonmenthol cigarettes, and that Americans have a right to make a personal choice to use any legal product. Some, however, advocate banning menthol cigarettes. If menthol is banned, about 30 percent of all cigarettes would become illegal. Prohibition of menthol cigarettes would lead to the illegal sale of more dangerous cigarettes through an unprecedented underground market.
Menthol has been used without controversy as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes - a flavor that can be tasted and identified by the smoker - for more than eighty years in countries around the world. It is also one of the most widely studied ingredients in cigarettes.
What have these studies found?
The science is clear and compelling. The best available scientific evidence demonstrates that menthol cigarettes have the same health effects as nonmenthol cigarettes. Menthol neither causes people to smoke, nor deters them from quitting. A menthol cigarette is just another cigarette and should be treated no differently. Menthol cigarettes simply give adult smokers a taste choice.
The evaluation of menthol provides an important opportunity for the FDA to follow sound science exclusively, and not succumb to political or anti-tobacco influences. As they consider this important decision, regulators have a responsibility to understand the facts about menthol, as well as the negative repercussions from a robust underground market that would result from severe marketing restrictions or an outright ban.
I hope you find this website useful in helping to understand the scientific facts and historical background about the use of menthol in cigarettes.