Should Menthol Cigarettes Be Banned?

March 18, 2011


A panel of experts, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, is mulling a menthol ban and is supposed to have a recommendation for the FDA by March 23. Tobacco companies have sold menthol as simple flavoring, but Frank Leone, MD, director of Penn's Comprehensive Smoking Treatment Program told WHYY radio it's much more. "They didn't choose cherry or chocolate, they chose menthol. There are very specific reasons why they chose menthol so many years ago," he said. Leone says menthol was picked for its vaguely "medicinal smell" and its association with cough drops. Before the 1950s, there was still a debate about whether cigarettes were actually harmful. Cigarette makers began to push the "health benefits" of menthols, Leone says, while using blue and green packaging to position the cigarettes as "refreshing." Dr. Leone believes that at a minimum, the FDA should warn people that menthol cigarettes have increased addictive potential as opposed to a non-mentholated cigarette. Read More