Little evidence that "denicotinized" menthol cigarettes have pharmacological effects: an EEG/heart-rate/sujective-response study

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999 Apr;143(3):273-9. doi: 10.1007/s002130050947.


Rationale: A substantial portion of cigarette smokers prefer menthol-flavored cigarettes. To date, however, no studies have examined whether menthol in cigarettes has central pharmacological effects.

Objective: We investigated psychophysiological and subjective effects of smoking menthol versus non-menthol cigarettes in both menthol and non-menthol smokers. To assess these effects independently of the immediate effects of nicotine, all cigarettes employed were "denicotinized" (FTC nicotine yield = 0.06 mg).

Methods: The psychophysiological measures were EEG and heart rate (HR). The subjective measures assessed mental alertness, muscular relaxation, anxiety/nervousness, and how much a participant wanted to smoke one of his usual brand of cigarettes. Menthol and non-menthol smokers participated in a single session in which each participant smoked both a menthol and a non-menthol denicotinized cigarette (order balanced across participants). The psychophysiological and subjective measures were recorded before and after smoking each cigarette.

Results: Out of 48 F-ratios spanning 22 analyses of variance involving the critical interaction between pre-/post-smoking and menthol/non-menthol cigarette, only one unambiguously fit a "pharmacological" pattern, a result indistinguishable from a type-I statistical error. We report evidence that menthol smokers may be chronically less aroused and more sensitive to the effects of nicotine than non-menthol smokers.

Conclusions: We found little evidence that menthol in cigarettes has central pharmacological effects.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Electroencephalography / drug effects*
  • Electroencephalography / psychology
  • Flavoring Agents / pharmacology*
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menthol / pharmacology*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Smoking / psychology*


  • Flavoring Agents
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Menthol
  • Carbon Monoxide