Objective Menthol is an important additive in most tobacco products and is an identifying characteristic of many brands. We assessed tobacco companies' research on direct disease-inducing effects of menthol and menthol cigarettes.
Methods A search was conducted among documents included in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Relevant documents addressed subject areas such as pharmacology, short-term and long-term effects and biomarkers of smoking exposure.
Results The documents contain little internal industry research on the disease-inducing effects of menthol. Most information in the tobacco industry documents are reviews of the published biomedical literature, from which the companies concluded that menthol did not have any direct disease-inducing effects. Evidence that contradicted this conclusion was downplayed. Except for one study, there was no evidence of the companies following up on positive findings in the literature with their own studies. In one case, results were presented at a public scientific meeting concluding that ‘There were no effects from addition of menthol to test or reference cigarettes’, when a company's internal pathology analysis contradicted this statement.
Conclusion The available industry documents suggest that tobacco companies conducted little research on the potential disease-inducing effects of menthol and did not pursue studies that suggested adverse effects.
- adverse effects
- health effects
- tobacco industry
- public policy
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Funding This research was supported by the Department of Health and Human Services Contract HHSN261201000035I and NCI grant CA-87472. Staff from the Food and Drug Administration offered comments on the original white paper47 authored by MVS.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This peer reviewed paper is based on a longer, more detailed (but not peer reviewed) white paper prepared for the US Food and Drug Administration. The full white paper is available at http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/95m417v2 and http://www.fda.gov/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/TobaccoProductsScientificAdvisoryCommittee/ucm228064.htm.
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