Menthol cigarettes were born when asthma sufferer Lloyd “Spud” Hughes, who inhaled menthol crystal vapors to help relieve asthma symptoms, hid his stash of cigarettes in a tin of the crystals. Hughes discovers that menthol flavoring is absorbed into the tobacco and now tastes “cool.”
Menthol is common as a flavoring additive in many cigarette brands, helping to mask harsher smoke. About 30% of the 44 million smokers in the U.S. identify menthols as their preferred cigarette, and around 57% of the young smoked menthols. Overall, more than 88 percent of African American smokers (ages 12+) smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 26 percent of white smokers. Among middle and high school students, 70.5% of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to 51.4% of white smokers.
In 1970, Lorillard introduces the “Alive with Pleasure” campaign and begins heavily marketing Newport cigarettes in urban areas. Newport market share grows among African American teenagers making it among the fastest selling brands in the market.
In the early 2000s, heavily flavored cigarettes, branded by their flavors, like vanilla, orange, chocolate, cherry, coffee, Kahlua, berry, and others, became popular and especially attractive to youth. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited “characterizing flavors” (e.g., candy, fruit, and chocolate) other than tobacco and menthol in cigarettes. Flavor branding is not restricted for other tobacco products like little cigars and oral tobacco.