>According to an article on a new Harvard study, “the tobacco industry in recent years has manipulated menthol levels in cigarettes to hook youngsters and maintain loyalty among smoking adults.”
The study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, released Wednesday, concludes that manufacturers have marketed brands to what it called a “vulnerable population” of adolescents and young adults by “manipulating sensory elements of cigarettes to promote initiation and dependence.”
Young people, the study said, tolerate menthol cigarettes better than harsher nonmenthol cigarettes. In low-level menthol cigarettes, the menthol primarily masks harshness, making it easier to begin smoking. But as smokers become more accustomed to menthol, they prefer stronger menthol sensations, according to the study.
This may add fuel the controversy swirming over recent articles regarding growing opposition to menthol cigarettes and its high use among African-American smokers. Black lawmakers recently sought to seek restrictions on menthol cigarettes (like flavored cigarettes already have) in a House tobacco-regulation bill, which I blogged about here.
The bill would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products and remove cigarette additives, including menthol. But while the legislation would immediately ban many other flavorings, it specifically exempts menthol from such a ban. The issue is particularly controversial because menthol cigarettes are heavily favored by black smokers, who have high rates of smoking-related cancers.
More stats from the study:
- The study concludes that 44 percent of smokers age 12 to 17 prefer menthol cigarettes, and it urges regulation of the tobacco industry and menthol, in particular.
- Menthol cigarettes currently make up about 28 percent of the $70 billion cigarette industry in America.
- The study, published by The American Journal of Public Health, also found various changes in menthol levels in cigarettes since 2000, which the authors contend were designed to attract specific categories of smokers. They are Lorillard’s Newport and cigarettes manufactured by R. J. Reynolds: Salem Black Label, Salem Green Label, Camel Menthol, Kool and Kool Milds.
The study, if anything, is interesting. It’s widely known that cigarette companies have done things to market their brands to younger people. Also, according to the American Lung Association, “tobacco use primarily begins in early adolescence.”(Source) That link contains more facts about tobacco use among teens and young adults.
I don’t know many people my age (I’m 24, thank you very much) or younger who are habitual smokers of cigarettes. I have a few friends who smoke cigars, but not on a regular basis. I must say that almost all of the black people I know who smoke prefer the menthol-brand cigarettes.
I think the only way to prevent teens and young people from smoking is education, plain and simple. However, it’s an uphill battle due to the explosion of movies and TV shows that glamorize smoking. Sure, I’m sure you guys have the feeling that I can not blame Hollywood. And I’m not blaming Hollywood for making teens and young people take up the nasty habit of smoking.
However, as a nonsmoker, I will admit that for a split second, smoking can make a character on screen look somewhat sexy and forbidden. But, since I’m older than the target age of advertising companies, I know that smoking is a dangerous (and disgusting) habit to begin and is not worth the health risks.
But, most of the teens within the target age of cigarette companies and its advertisers can not distinguish between what Hollywood throws in their faces and the dangers of smoking. This, my friends, is what makes these companies successful–preying on innocent, not-fully-mature (physically and mentally) minds.