Even if you don’t smoke, you’re probably familiar with menthol, the compound in plants like peppermint that impart a minty taste. It’s been added to cigarettes since the 1920s.

Problem is, because of the flavor and the cooling sensation you get from a menthol, some smokers think they’re a safer alternative than regular cigs. They’re not.

“All of these cigarettes cause cancer. Period,” says Raja Flores, director of the thoracic surgical oncology Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Menthol cigs, however, may be especially problematic for people’s health.

Last August, a group of senators in the US asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban their sale, citing a 2011 FDA study which raised alarm bells.

That preliminary report called out the cigarettes’ potentially greater addictive properties as well as questionable ways they’re marketed. The authors wrote:

“Menthol smokers show greater signs of nicotine dependence and are less likely to successfully quit smoking. These findings, combined with the evidence indicating that menthol’s cooling and anesthetic properties can reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and the evidence indicating that menthol cigarettes are marketed as a smoother alternative to non-menthol cigarettes, make it likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with non-menthol cigarettes.”

The presence of menthol in cigarettes leads to cooling, numbing sensation in the throat that counteracts the telltale burning of traditional cigarettes, creating a more comfortable puffing experience, Flores says.

“Menthol will make you inhale more. The more you smoke, the greater your chances of getting cancer,”

Flores says. Indeed, menthol smokers took bigger, longer puffs compared to people lighting up non-menthols, per a 2017 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, Flores adds that doctors can’t say definitively that menthol cigarettes cause more cancers.

One study in Circulation in 2016 found that menthols also did not increase someone’s risk of cardiovascular disease more than regular cigarettes did (rather, they were both bad). Another 2011 FDA review concluded that menthols aren’t more harmful than regular cigs.

“…Both cigarettes produce significant negative effects on health outcomes, including respiratory disease, cardiovascular outcomes, and cancer,”

author Allison C. Hoffman writes.

The takeaway?

Regular and menthol cigarettes are at least equal players when you’re talking about the negative impact on health. That’s a big problem if people smoke menthols because they think they’re the lesser of two evils or only took up smoking because menthol was an option.

Something to think about…

Courtesy of vice.com.