Menthol is a chemical added to cigarettes and other tobacco products that can make them more addictive than regular cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products with menthol have been marketed to young people and other groups to encourage them to start and keep smoking.
What Is Menthol?
Menthol is a chemical naturally found in peppermint and other plants and can also be made in a lab. Menthol is one of the most commonly used flavorings in tobacco products. Tobacco companies add menthol to cigarettes and other tobacco products to make them more appealing and to encourage people to keep smoking.
Menthol masks the harsh taste and irritation of cigarette smoke. This makes it easier for people, especially young people, to begin and keep using cigarettes. It also means that people who smoke menthol cigarettes tend to smoke more and inhale more deeply than people who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.
Some people believe that menthol cigarettes are safer than non-menthol cigarettes. They are not. Just like non-menthol cigarettes, menthol cigarettes harm nearly every organ in the body. They cause many diseases, like cancer and heart disease. If you smoke menthol cigarettes, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.
Who Uses Menthol Cigarettes?
Young people, Black/African American people and other racial and ethnic groups, women, people with lower incomes, people with mental health conditions, and people who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to use menthol cigarettes than other groups. For many decades, tobacco companies have targeted certain groups with marketing of menthol cigarettes. Targeted marketing is a major reason for tobacco-related health disparities in some groups of people.
Like other tobacco products, menthol cigarettes contain nicotine, the main addictive drug in tobacco products. Menthol enhances the effect of nicotine on the brain. This can make menthol cigarettes even more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes. Even though fewer people are smoking now than in the past, the percentage of people who smoke menthol cigarettes has gone down more slowly than the percentage of people who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.
Getting Social Support to Quit
It is important to get the right support for yourself as you quit. Surrounding yourself with positive support from the important people in your life can make it easier to quit smoking menthol. Lean on friends, family, co-workers, and members of your community who can be there for you. Remember, you are not in this alone.
Here are some ways you can get support:
Share my plans to quit with people important to me. Tell your family and friends when your quit day is and ask for their support on that day, as well as in the first few days and weeks after. Be specific about what you need from them. For example, ask a friend to celebrate with you on your first day being smokefree. Or, you could say, “When I’m having a craving, it helps when you distract me from it,” or “It makes me feel bad when you bring up a time when I slipped and smoked again.”
Find a quit buddy. If there’s someone close to you who smokes, ask them if they want to quit with you. It could be helpful to have someone who understands the challenges of becoming smokefree. Plan smokefree activities together and celebrate your successes.
Ask for advice or support from someone who has successfully quit. Ask them what helped them, what surprised them, and what challenged them. See if they are willing to check in on you to hold you accountable.
Connect on social media with other people who are quitting smoking. Get inspiration and encouragement from a community of people who are going through the same things as you. Smokefree’s communities are here for you.
Learn more about how to build your team.
Getting Expert Help to Quit
There are many free resources to help you quit using menthol cigarettes. Consider talking to an expert for help. Make your plan to quit and try other tools to help you along the way. It may take many tries to successfully quit, but do not get discouraged. You can do this!
- Talk to a trained counselor to get expert advice on quitting and staying smokefree.
- Build your quit plan to boost your chance of success.
- Use a Smokefree.gov text messaging program or smartphone app for 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips for becoming smokefree.
- Learn more about how quit smoking medications like the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, and prescription medications can help you succeed.