Derived from the peppermint plant, menthol provides a minty flavor and cooling sensation in cigarettes, covering up the tobacco taste and reducing the throat irritation associated with smoking, particularly among first-time users. In fact, research shows that newer and younger smokers use menthol cigarettes at dramatically higher rates than older, established smokers.

The tobacco industry has targeted much menthol advertising to minority racial and ethnic groups. As a result, they are smoked disproportionately by African Americans. And studies have shown that when menthol smokers try to quit smoking, they have more difficulty than non-menthol smokers.

Menthol packaging often mimics the look of cold medicine, while menthol ads often use words like “smooth” and “refresh.” Green and blue packaging colors can also send the subtle – and false – message that menthol has some health or medicinal benefits when used in tobacco products. But there is no evidence that menthol cigarettes are safer than any other cigarettes.