Abstract

Sensory perception is a key determinant of smoking behavior and, therefore, reinforcement and addiction. The tobacco industry has conducted extensive research on the chemosensory and physiological effects of menthol in tobacco smoke and has actively promoted menthol's sensory characteristics. Based upon previously published examinations of internal tobacco industry documents, this commentary summarizes what is currently known about the tobacco industry's use of menthol to modify sensory characteristics in cigarettes and the implications of these activities for smoking behavior. The industry considers menthol to be an important tool for modulating the sensory effects of nicotine in different product variations, particularly those designed to be acceptable to “starters” or people interested in quitting. Regulatory efforts should consider that menthol enables the tobacco industry to customize a highly addictive product in a manner that contributes to initiation and deters cessation due to its chemosensory effects.

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