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Menthol Cigarettes Marketed as 'Healthier,' FDA Panel Says
Date:3/18/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- Marketing messages for menthol cigarettes disproportionately target youths and blacks and are crafted to imply that menthols are safer than other cigarettes, although they are not, according to a newly released draft section of a long awaited FDA advisory committee's report.

While direct claims of menthol cigarettes' health benefits dwindled after the 1950s, marketing materials continue to depict menthols as "refreshing" and "soothing," while use of the color green on menthol packaging implies "nature" and healthfulness, according to the report.

"Analyses of tobacco industry internal documents and marketing messages the industry produced provide corroborating evidence of explicit and unwarranted claims that smoking menthol cigarettes would improve smokers' health," according to the draft report, which was released Thursday.

"Over time, marketing messages increasingly relied on sensory descriptors and imagery to imply that menthol cigarettes are safer than non-menthol cigarettes," the report noted.

While contemporary tobacco marketing efforts have been "constrained by legislation that restricts advertising in traditional media," the draft report continued, "the powerful advertising messages used in the past are reinforced and continued by...menthol marketing messages such as 'smooth' and 'fresh' that are implicitly linked to health benefits," the report declared.

The draft report also says that menthol marketing has targeted youth, women and blacks, and that "consistent with these targeted marketing efforts, menthol cigarettes are disproportionately smoked by African-American smokers."

According to a study cited in the FDA's draft report, nearly 81 percent of black middle schoolers who smoke and about 85 percent of black high school smokers regularly smoke menthol cigarettes, usually Newports, the leading brand.

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