This week ClearWay Minnesota began running a new television ad as part of our Still a Problem campaign. The ad shows how experimentation with menthol tobacco can quickly become a harmful addiction for teens.
Menthol is an additive used by cigarette manufacturers to give smoke a minty taste and cooling sensation, making it easier to start smoking. Menthol tobacco products are target-marketed to youth, African Americans and other specific populations.
Although many smokers believe menthol cigarettes to be healthier than other kinds, they are just as addictive and damaging to health. In fact, studies show menthol cigarettes actually lead to greater addiction and decrease successes in quitting smoking.
In Minnesota, preference for menthol tobacco products among students has more than doubled since 2000. The most recent Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that about half of Minnesota teen smokers (44 percent) smoke menthols. National research shows that adolescents smoke menthol cigarettes at higher rates than any other age group.
We hope the new ad will raise awareness of menthol as a distinct tobacco issue, and that policymakers will take action to help. State and local governments can regulate menthol by restricting sales at retail locations frequented by youth. And studies suggest that banning menthol tobacco altogether would motivate 39 percent of menthol smokers to quit and result in a 10 percent reduction in smoking, saving 633,000 lives, by 2050. Minnesota policymakers should consider these steps, which will help create a smoke-free future for our state.