Cigarette smoking is established as a substantial contributor to risks for cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Less is known about the potential of cigarette composition to affect smoking risks. The use of cigarette flavoring ingredients such as menthol is currently of worldwide public health and regulatory interest. The unique conditions of menthol inhalation exposure that occur coincident with that of the complex cigarette smoke aerosol require specialized studies to support an assessment of its safety in cigarette flavoring applications. The present state of knowledge is sufficient to support an assessment of the safety of the use of menthol in cigarettes. Scientific, smoking behavioral and epidemiological data available through mid-2009 is critically reviewed and a broad convergence of findings supports a judgment that menthol employed as a cigarette tobacco flavoring ingredient does not meaningfully affect the inherent toxicity of cigarette smoke or the human risks that attend smoking. There remains a need for well-designed studies of the potential of menthol to affect smoking initiation, cessation and addiction in order to differentiate any independent effects of menthol in cigarettes from those imposed by socioeconomic, environmental and peer influences on these complex human behaviors.
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