The impact of menthol cigarettes on smoking initiation among non-smoking young females in Japan

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Jan;8(1):1-14. doi: 10.3390/ijerph8010001. Epub 2010 Dec 23.


Japan presents an excellent case-study of a nation with low female smoking rates and a negligible menthol market which changed after the cigarette market was opened to foreign competition. Internal tobacco industry documents demonstrate the intent of tobacco manufacturers to increase initiation among young females through development and marketing of menthol brands. Japanese menthol market share rose rapidly from less than 1% in 1980 to 20% in 2008. Menthol brand use was dominated by younger and female smokers, in contrast with non-menthol brands which were used primarily by male smokers. Nationally representative surveys confirm industry surveys of brand use and provide further evidence of the end results of the tobacco industry's actions-increased female smoking in Japan. These findings suggest that female populations may be encouraged to initiate into smoking, particularly in developing nations or where female smoking rates remain low, if the tobacco industry can successfully tailor brands to them. The Japanese experience provides a warning to public health officials who wish to prevent smoking initiation among young females.

Keywords: Japan; female-smoking; initiation; menthol; smokers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Marketing*
  • Menthol*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / economics
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking / trends
  • Tobacco Industry / economics
  • Tobacco Industry / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Menthol