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How is menthol added to cigarettes?

Updated July 20, 2017

Smoking cigarettes is known to increase chances of lung cancer, mouth cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases. The effect of a cigarette is much like the effect of heroin or morphine on the brain. Smoking a cigarette stimulates the production of chemicals in the brain called opioids, which are known to soothe pain and bring about positive emotions. Some smokers prefer cigarettes that are lined with cooling crystallised mint called menthol because it offers a stimulating sensation and an arguably "smoother" inhale.

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Crystallised Mint

Menthol, derived from mint, offers a distinct cooling and calming sensation to whomever comes in contact with the substance. The menthol that is ingested during smoking is carried to the liver, where the substance is broken down and carried out of the body. Oil made from the corn mint plant is steamed and crystallised to create the menthol that gets used in the manufacturing of menthol cigarettes. Some studies show that menthol smokers inhale more deeply than people who smoke regular cigarettes, causing a higher risk of carcinogenic intake.


There are three ways to insert menthol onto or into a cigarette. Injection of menthol into the filter or tobacco paper is a common application method employed by manufacturers. Another method is to add the menthol in a solution of alcohol directly onto the tobacco itself before the cigarettes are rolled and packed. Menthol also can be added to the paper side of the inner foil on the pack, to enhance taste and sensation. Because the FDA has not regulated menthol application, the manufacturer can choose whichever method best suits the cost-benefit analysis.


The respiratory system is a fine-tuned machine, the result of millions of years of evolution. Smoking is an unnatural action for the body, and therefore requires that the body acclimate itself to this new method of "breathing." As the body gets used to taking in smoke and the carcinogens that come along with the tobacco inside cigarettes, it also becomes addicted to the nicotine that laces the tobacco. This addiction requires that even more smoke be inhaled, and more cigarettes purchased, and the cycle lies therein. The menthol cigarette in particular is misleading because it makes the smoker feel as though the nasal passages are opening, or "clearing up," when in fact nothing has changed at all. The repercussions of the addiction cycle and the resulting increase in cigarette consumption on the body include respiratory malfunction and various diseases. The repercussions of this cycle on the economy is that the manufacturers of this harmful product continues to reap the benefits of the harm caused.


Critics of menthol cigarettes, including some at the Federal Drug Administration, say that there is a clear intent on the part of manufacturers to initiate young people into becoming smokers with the allure of menthol cigarettes. Some say that menthol levels have been elevated in certain cigarettes to attract first-time smokers. Manufacturers deny any such allegations and assure the public that menthol cigarettes contain no more tobacco, nicotine or other carcinogens than any regular cigarette.

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About the Author

Nina Snow has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her varied work experience ranges from entertainment production to food criticism to retail administration. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Arts from Yale University.

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