Menthol has been around for a long time and is used in a variety of different things, from inhalers to essential oils, and more recently vape juice. Menthol was included in cigarettes to create a smoother minty experience for smokers, but this was banned back in 2020 in an effort to combat people smoking and for the government’s plan to continue for England to become SmokeFree by 2030.
In this article, I’ll explain in depth what exactly menthol is, how it’s created, what it’s used in and why it was banned from being included as a flavour in cigarettes.
What is menthol?
Menthol is an organic compound found within the oils that are extracted from Mentha, which are a group of plants found within the mint family. Peppermint plants are the most commonly used plants to extract the Menthol compound from, but it can also be synthetically made within a laboratory.
In it’s raw form, Menthol is a solid waxy, clear or white crystalised substance at room temperature but does have a very low melting point which is very beneficial for when it needs to be used.
What is it used for?
As mentioned above, Menthol is used in a wide array of things these days. It’s used in a lot of cosmetic products like toothpastes, mouthwash, lip balms, body balms and after sun cream as well as in medicinal products like cough drops, cough syrups, nasal inhalers, and cold remedies.
Whilst Menthol does not have any proven and specific medicinal properties, it is used in medicinal products to sooth sore throats, aches and pains and help clear airways/sinuses if suffering from a cold and congestion.
How does it work?
Menthol provides a cooling and soothing effect to aid any pain you may be suffering from. It has previously been stated to give a mild “anaesthetizing” effect to users but does not have any official medicinal properties.
It can help relieve pain by calming down inflammation, especially in the throat or sinuses, but also it’s combined with things like Aloe Vera to make after sun lotion if you’ve spent a bit too much time in the sun as this will refresh and revitalise the skin as well as supressing any irritation and redness from the sun burn.
Menthol is also used as a digestive aid, commonly seen in Rennie/Gaviscon used when suffering from heartburn or indigestion. But also people use Peppermint to aid this too, either in the form of Peppermint tea or having a strong peppermint sweet to help relax the intestinal muscles and treat any digestive ailments you may be suffering from.
As mentioned above, Menthol crystals have a low melting point and they are commonly sold within Pharmacies in their raw form which can be added to a bowl of boiling water and inhaled to clear congestion.
The health benefits of Menthol
Whilst Menthol doesn’t have any medicinal gain, there are a lot of health benefits from using it. I’ll list a few key ones below that you may not have known about;
- It helps brain function – I didn’t actually know this until I began my research for this article, but Peppermint Oil can in fact help your brain function better. Scientists have proved that people who smelt Peppermint Oil a short time before taking a test had better results in memory than those who did not smell the oil. Studies also showed that drivers who were suffering from fatigue and tiredness became more alert after a quick whiff of Peppermint Oil. Pretty interesting don’t you think?
- Got a headache? Reach for the Peppermint Oil – Scientists found that applying Peppermint oil to your forehead when suffering from a headache will help sooth the pain you’re feeling and begin shifting the pain away. This is due to the Menthol in it helping to relax the muscles within your forehead. Some Pharmaceutical have produced specific balms that are filled with Peppermint oil for this exact reason. Clever stuff!
- Increases alertness – As mentioned above, Peppermint Oil helps drivers suffering from fatigue, but this doesn’t just apply to drivers, it applies to anyone suffering from fatigue. Menthol found in Peppermint Oil can help ventilation and brain oxygen concentration when inhaled to give a swift boost of energy when its needed.
- Relieves Indigestion and IBS symptoms – I’ve mentioned above about the benefits of using peppermint oil/menthol to aid with digestive problems as Peppermint Oil will help with digesting food a lot quicker if taken, as well as reducing the amount of symptoms people suffer from if they have IBS.
Why did companies start using it in cigarettes?
Cigarette manufacturers first added Menthol in to tobacco products way back in 1920-1930s but it didn’t really take off until the late 1950s and into the early 1960s.
Menthol was added to tobacco and cigarettes to create a cooling, soothing effect that reduced the harshness of cigarette smoke and any irritation caused by nicotine.
A lot of manufacturers also used Menthol as a characteristic to appeal to targets audiences like younger smokers to encourage them to smoke, something which was heavily scrutinised by multiple organisations and something that subsequently led to the menthol cigarette ban.
Why did menthol cigarettes get banned?
Menthol cigarettes were banned from being produced and sold in the UK on May 20th 2020.
This was part of a new directive to government imposed to curb the amount of young people taking up smoking due to the attractive characterizing flavour of menthol cigarettes that taste better than a traditional cigarette.
The ban was imposed for the whole of the UK so you won’t be able to hop over the border to Scotland or Wales and get your menthol fix, and it also applies to all countries in the European Union, so scrap that idea of jumping on a plane to get stocked up as well!
Many companies created accessories like menthol cards and menthol drops that can be applied to cigarettes, which I’ve gone into detail about in a separate article available to read HERE
This is how Penthol was created. After seeing how long it took for menthol drops to be effective, we wanted to create a quick instant solution to give smokers that cool menthol taste that they were accustomed to.