In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report finding that menthol cigarettes lead to greater addiction and decreased success in quitting smoking. The cooling and anesthetic effect of menthol allows smokers to inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in the lungs longer, increasing their exposure to the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke. As a result, menthol smokers show significantly higher levels of nicotine addiction compared with non-menthol smokers, increasing the health risks of tobacco use for menthol users and making quitting more difficult.

Nearly 9 out of 10 adult African American smokers smoke menthol, compared to 29% of white smokers, helping to explain why African Americans suffer and die more from tobacco-related diseases. It’s also what makes menthol a racial justice issue. In next week’s post, we’ll explore the tobacco industry’s deliberate strategy to increase menthol product appeal to the African American community.