Cigarette cos. manipulate menthol levels to lure young smokers: Study

July 16th, 2008 - 10:46 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Tobacco companies manipulate menthol levels in cigarettes to hook young smokers, a new study says. “The tobacco industry has carefully manipulated menthol content not only to lure youth but also to lock in lifelong adult customers,” said Howard Koh, professor and associate dean for public health practice at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and co-author of the study.

HSPH reviewed internal tobacco industry documents on menthol product development, conducted laboratory tests to measure menthol content in US brands, examined market research reports and drew data from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“Menthol cigarette brands have been rising in popularity with adolescents, and the highest use has been among younger, newer smokers. Menthol masks the harshness and irritation of cigarettes, allowing delivery of an effective dose of nicotine, the addictive chemical in cigarettes,” Koh said.

The tobacco companies regularly researched how controlling menthol levels could increase brand sales among specific groups. The companies then positioned and marketed milder menthol products to appeal primarily to new smokers.

“Menthol brands with the greatest market share growth among young adults had the lowest menthol levels are Marlboro Milds and Newport among other brands studied by us,” Koh said.

Marlboro introduced Milds in 2000 with a lower menthol concentration while raising the menthol content in Marlboro Menthol, favoured by older smokers.

“It was a deliberate strategy of cigarette companies to recruit and addict young smokers by adjusting menthol to create a milder experience for the first time smoker,” Koh said.

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