Exposure to and deposition of fine and ultrafine particles in smokers of menthol and nonmenthol cigarettes

Inhal Toxicol. 2012 Apr;24(5):255-69. doi: 10.3109/08958378.2012.667218.


Introduction: Research on the deposition of mainstream smoke particulate in the respiratory tract of smokers is needed to understand how exposure may vary based on cigarette menthol content.

Methods: We conducted a nine-participant crossover study in which smokers were randomly assigned to cigarettes differing primarily in menthol content. Participants smoked the test cigarettes ad libitum for one week, provided spot urine samples, and then smoked four test cigarettes in a laboratory session; this was repeated for the other test cigarette in week two. Fine and ultrafine particulate matter in exhaled breath were characterized, and smoking behavior was monitored. Participant-specific mainstream smoke, generated using each participant's topography data, was characterized. During home smoking, participants collected their spent test cigarette butts for estimates of mouth-level exposures (MLE) to mainstream nicotine and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK).

Results: Participant-specific mainstream smoke NNK was higher (39%) and daily MLE to NNK was also higher (52%) when participants smoked the menthol cigarette. Nicotine was not significantly different. Participants retained more ultrafine particulate (43%) and fine particulate benzo(a)pyrene (43%) when smoking the menthol cigarette. There were no significant differences in the levels of urinary biomarkers for nicotine, NNK, or pyrene.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates the use of noninvasive real-time techniques to measure exposure differences between cigarettes differing primarily in menthol content. Differences between NNK exposure, ultrafine particle and benzo(a)pyrene deposition, and smoking behavior were observed. Additional research using these techniques with cigarettes that differ only in menthol content is required to unequivocally attribute the exposure differences to presence or absence of menthol.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis*
  • Male
  • Menthol*
  • Nicotiana
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Nitrosamines / analysis
  • Nitrosamines / urine
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / urine
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Smoking*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Nitrosamines
  • Particulate Matter
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Smoke
  • Menthol
  • Nicotine
  • 4-(N-methyl-N-nitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone