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Prefer smoking menthols? Here’s why those minty cigarettes are actually worse

Updated on:17 May 2021, 15:39pm IST
Smoking flavoured cigarettes, especially menthols, might give you that much-needed kick—but they can also do you more harm that regular smoking.
Dr Tilak Suvarna
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world tobacco day
Flavoured cigarettes are foe to your lungs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Flavoured cigarettes are like any other normal cigarettes, but with added flavour additives. A hit with millennials, flavoured cigarettes and e-cigarettes quickly gained popularity and was consequently banned by several countries due to their adverse effects on public health.

Some of the common complaints or short-term impacts of smoking regular cigarettes is that it causes throat irritation, wheezing, bad breath, and unhealthy dental and oral hygiene. The flavours that cigarettes offer are what mainly attract consumers.

They range from herbal and fruity to chocolate and candy, which can satisfy the preferences of a large number of people. This eliminates the ‘bad breath’ aspect of smoking a regular cigarette with its flavourful taste and smell that is more pleasant than that of tobacco.

Additionally, a common component in flavored cigarettes is menthol or mint that is used to generate a cooling effect in the throat on inhaling the tobacco as it stimulates nerve endings that sense cool temperatures. Thus, the throat irritation and coughing experienced by smoking a regular cigarette is greatly reduced.

prevent hypertension
Quit smoking now if you are dealing with hypertension. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

These are the main ‘benefits’ of flavoured cigarettes that make people choose them over regular cigarettes. However, there are also some potential dangers associated with flavoured cigarettes too.

Menthol cigarettes can be more damaging to your health. Here’s why
While menthol itself is a harmless substance that is processed in the liver and excreted from the body, the cooling effect that it leaves behind in the throat can actually be more detrimental than beneficial. Some studies have shown that because of this cooling effect, people tend to take in a lot more smoke in a single drag than in non-menthol cigarettes. This means taking in more tobacco, tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide and other toxic and carcinogenic substances that all cigarettes contain.

Taking in a larger quantity of these substances could also mean getting addicted faster, and hence smoking more cigarettes than if you smoked non-menthol cigarettes. Thus, while the apparent effects of smoking menthol cigarettes seem more comforting, the long-term effects are no more different than a normal cigarette, and could also be worse in some cases.

However, it would be wrong to generalize and say that menthol-cigarettes are more harmful than non-menthol cigarettes. The fatality of the cigarettes depends on a variety of factors: the intensity and amount of smoke taken in one drag, that depends from person to person; and also the design of the cigarette and its filter that regulates the amount of smoke that can be inhaled in a single drag, which differs from brand to brand.

E-cigarettes or “vaping” is no better
Another popular alternative to cigarettes worth mentioning are e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco but instead burn liquid nicotine that also contains flavour additives. There is still much research to be done on these devices, but continuous nicotine consumption in any form is detrimental to physical and mental health.

vaping cannot help in quitting smoking
Report says it too that vaping is of no help when it comes to quitting smoking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Cigarettes of any form, be it non-menthol, menthol, or e-cigarettes, create hormonal havoc in the body and have been strongly correlated to a number of life-threatening diseases such as a variety of cancers, type-2 diabetes, respiratory disorders, vision issues, and overall a lower life expectancy.

In fact, smoking is the number one avoidable risk factor of cardiovascular diseases. Infertility issues and weak immune systems are also more prevalent in smokers than non-smokers.

Even in terms of mental health, while smoking is commonly known to relieve stress and help people relax, it has been shown to increase anxiety levels, and smokers are at an increased risk of clinical depression.

 As we can see, there is no ‘safe’ alternative to cigarettes and the takeaway from this is that different kinds of cigarettes still pose more or less the same health risks.

Also, listen:

It is important to monitor your tobacco and nicotine intake and if you do find yourself getting addicted to tobacco products and want to quit, reach out to a healthcare professional or a support group to not only aid you in your journey of quitting, but also deal with withdrawal symptoms in a safe and healthy manner and reduce chances of relapse.

Dr Tilak Suvarna Dr Tilak Suvarna

Dr Suvarna is a senior interventional cardiologist at Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.