Possible effects on smokers of cigarette mentholation: a review of the evidence relating to key research questions

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2007 Mar;47(2):189-203. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2006.09.004. Epub 2006 Nov 13.


Menthol (2-isopropyl-5-methyl-cyclohexan-1-ol) is used in food, pharmaceutical, and tobacco products. Despite its long usage history and GRAS status, scientific literature on effects of cigarette mentholation is limited. Because African-American men have high lung cancer rates and predominantly smoke mentholated cigarettes, and because menthol's cooling effect might affect puffing and smoke inhalation, possible adverse effects of cigarette mentholation have been suggested. We review the evidence on the effects of mentholation on smokers, and we also identify areas for further study. Five large epidemiological studies provide no evidence that cigarette mentholation increases lung cancer risk. Mentholation cannot explain the higher risk for lung cancer in African-American male smokers, who also predominantly smoke mentholated cigarettes. Limited data on other cancers also suggest no risk from mentholation. The scientific literature suggests that cigarette mentholation does not increase puff number or puff volume of smoked cigarettes, and has little or no effect on heart rate, blood pressure, uptake of carbon monoxide, tar intake or retention, or blood cotinine concentration. Mentholation has little effect on other smoke constituents, and no apparent effect on nicotine absorption, airway patency and smoking initiation, dependency or cessation. Any toxicological effects of cigarette mentholation on adult smokers are probably quite limited.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Menthol / pharmacology*
  • Nicotine / pharmacokinetics
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Mechanics
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / ethnology
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Tars / metabolism


  • Tars
  • Menthol
  • Nicotine
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Cotinine