Tobacco companies use menthol to make the taste of cigarettes more acceptable to young first-time smokers until they become addicted, a new study charges. Researchers found that 44% of child smokers used menthol cigarettes, reports Reuters. "Menthol stimulates the cooling receptors in the lungs," said an expert from the Harvard School of Public Health who studied the marketing of menthol cigarettes. "Menthol helps the nicotine go down. It makes smoking easier."
"First-time smoker reaction is generally negative," an RJR Reynolds internal document said in 1987. "Initial negatives can be alleviated with a low level of menthol." The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, comes as Congress considers giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco. A tobacco company spokesman blasted the study as a bald effort to "push for federal regulation" that wasn't based on science. "The American public should view this report for what it is, a politically motivated lobbying tool." (Read more tobacco stories.)