The menthol smoker: Tobacco industry research on consumer sensory perception of menthol cigarettes and its role in smoking behavior
The menthol smoker: Tobacco industry research on consumer sensory perception of menthol cigarettes and its role in smoking behavior Summary of published paper by Jennifer M. Kreslake, Geoffrey Ferris Wayne and Gregory N. Connolly, Harvard School of Public Health, Division of Public Health Practice, published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research Volume 10, Issue 4 April 2008 , pages 705 - 715
The tobacco industry actively promotes smoking of menthol cigarettes due to their perceived sensory benefits, such as coolness. Menthol cigarette smokers have been found to differ from nonmenthol smokers in smoking behavior and addiction. For this study, the authors examined internal tobacco industry documents that described relationships between sensory perception and the attitudes, preferences, and patterns of cigarette use among menthol smokers. The authors found that there were two unique types of menthol smokers: 1) those who cannot tolerate the harshness and irritation associated with smoking nonmenthol cigarettes, and 2) those who seek out the specific menthol flavor and associated physical sensation. In the first segment of menthol smokers, menthol reduces the negative sensory characteristics associated with smoking. This segment may include a large proportion of occasional smokers or young people, as well as smokers who have “traded down” to a less strong cigarette because of perceived harshness or negative health effects. Some established menthol smokers, on the other hand, appear to be tolerant of, and even actively seek stronger sensory attributes, including higher menthol levels. Smokers of these “stronger” menthols have traditionally been disproportionately African American males. Some beginning or occasional smokers may adopt menthols for their mild properties and to cover up the taste of tobacco, but then develop a stronger desire for the menthol taste over time. The authors recommend that future research measuring smoking behavior and evaluating cessation outcomes of menthol smokers should consider the duration of menthol use and differentiate smokers according to their reasons for using menthols.
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