January 18, 2011 - There is a strong preference for menthol products in a number of Asian markets such as Japan and it is also growing in some Central European and Latin American markets. (Marlboro menthol cigarettes: strong preference in Asia by O'Connor Sarah, cheapweb.info, 6/24/2009)
PAPER: The Impact of Menthol Cigarettes on Smoking Initiation among Non-Smoking Young Females in Japan, Gregory N. Connolly, Ilan Behm, Yoneatsu Osaki and Geoffrey F. Wayne, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8, 1-14; FULL TEXT..
STUDY ABSTRACT: Japan presents an excellent case-study of a nation with low female smoking rates and a negligible menthol market which changed after the cigarette market was opened to foreign competition. Internal tobacco industry documents demonstrate the intent of tobacco manufacturers to increase initiation among young females through development and marketing of menthol brands. Japanese menthol market share rose rapidly from less than 1% in 1980 to 20% in 2008. Menthol brand use was dominated by younger and female smokers, in contrast with non-menthol brands which were used primarily by male smokers. Nationally representative surveys confirm industry surveys of brand use and provide further evidence of the end results of the tobacco industry‘s actions—increased female smoking in Japan. These findings suggest that female populations may be encouraged to initiate into smoking, particularly in developing nations or where female smoking rates remain low, if the tobacco industry can successfully tailor brands to them. The Japanese experience provides a warning to public health officials who wish to prevent smoking initiation among young females.
From paper: Surveys identified menthol as a major reason for female experimentation and use. Menthol cigarettes tended to be viewed as "a special type" of "light" cigarette and were widely considered to be an exclusively female domain.
Each day in the United States, approximately 3,900 persons aged 12--17 years smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 1,000 adolescents become daily cigarette smokers. The vast majority of persons who begin smoking during adolescence are addicted to nicotine by age 20. (MMWR - Cigarette Smoking --- United States, 1965--2008..) A national study finds that smokers who started recently are more likely than longer-term smokers to use menthol cigarettes. Menthol is an additive used in cigarettes that masks the harshness of cigarette smoke by giving the smoker the sensation of coolness in the mouth, pharynx, and lungs. By masking the harshness, menthol can make it easier for young people to start smoking. (Menthol Cigarettes - smokers who started recently more likely to smoke menthols..)