Friday, 10 September 2010

And now for something completely Menthol

For those who only recently came across my personal blog, the main subject hereby discussed is Toxicology. But not the far incomprehensible jargon that puts you off and drives you away from wanting to know better. What I try to bring up here to the “table” of discussions is the quotidian things that exist in our day-to-day life but we never had anyone to explain to us or anyone who could deliver proper information without forcing us to sleep after the first sentence.

This space is more about your need to comprehend and discuss rather than a showing off from some almighty Head of Department that I simply am not. I am one of you who just totally love this science – Toxicology. And this space is about us having a taste of real life, science wise, where we dig up information, compile it and deliver it in the most funny, light, reliable way possible.

One of the ways through which we can appeal to people’s utter interest is breaking myths, those who have been fed to us from early age and still eventually pop now and then, demanding an explanation, asking for clear scientific clairvoyance. Well, I have been doing it with such a pleasure and personal contentment that I proved myself this is my passion… and football… and bass-guitars… and blond Danish women too, but that’s a different story. So today, another piece of science is presented to our audience in a myth-fashion way. Today, I try to dismantle that classic myth-bomb named Menthol Cigarettes and the question most of those “Smoookin’ men” have flashing up your heads. Both heads!!!

Does smoking menthol cigarettes cause impotence?

Is it just another ludicrous rumour the effects of menthol over men’s sexual drive?

And if not true where did this crazy idea came from?

Well, let us start right from this point. Needless to say how harmful all the substances present in a simple cigarette can actually be, the scope today is on Menthol and the Mental idea that is affecting men’s Mickeys. For starters, as stated in the Doctor NDTV's For the better health of Indian’s website - Menthol is a natural compound that is found in the mint herb. It is used in medicines, sweets and candies, toothpaste, cigarettes and so on, in addition to being a popular constituent of numerous foods. For all practical purposes, it can be considered harmless and free of serious side effects. Thus smokers of mentholated tobacco need not to be concerned about the former, but should certainly worry about the latter”.

Can we rely on this piece of information? Well, the rumour regarding menthol as menace to manhood actually gained life back in the 60’s and was never scientifically proven; see Mel Green’s <<The complete E.D. Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Overcome Erectile Dysfunction and Enjoy Great Sex>>. Yet, we want to disprove it either, so every single one of you can just go to sleep peacefully, knowing that nothing will happen to your penis, due to smoking menthol flavoured cigarettes, even though your lungs and the possibility of getting cancer is still associated with the simple act of smoking a cigarette. Cigarettes do, in fact, constrict blood vessels and prevent normal flow of blood to be distributed throughout the male body. But erectile dysfunction is not due to Menthol. Erectile disorder can actually be related to long term smoking, as a chronic effect, but Menthol isn’t the one agent causing such disarray. 

What else about Menthol? Well mates, Menthol is a stimulant of cold receptors, therefore, the freshness felt when tasted. Menthol cigarettes contain around 0.1 to 1.0% of their weight in pure menthol as stated by Giovino et al. (2004) on the “Epidemiology of menthol cigarette use”. This same paper reviewed literature on 140 U.S. cigarette brands and found nothing directly linked to erectile dysfunction/disorder. If we can play it cool, the paper found the same old classic consequences of smoking cigarettes, e.g., mentholation associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, etc. 

When reading through Giovino et al. (2004); an article on the “Epidemiology of menthol cigarette use” published by Taylor and Francis Health Sciences, one is utterly surprised by the initial information given – “Approximately one fourth of all cigarettes sold in the United States are mentholated". Then the paper goes on summarizing the available literature on the health effects of mentholated cigarettes. It's in the discussion chapter when we finally understand that the available data state that mentholated cigarettes are at least as dangerous as their nonmentholated counterparts.

So, what’s about menthol in cigarettes that make them so appealing? A theory quoted by this same paper suggests that menthol smokers are likely to be more exposed to greater volume of smoke toxins just because they smoke a lot more, since menthol present in these cigarettes masks the roughness of the smoke (by desensitising the tongue to nicotine and making the average puff volume bigger), then, smoke inhaling, is thus, facilitated. On the other hand, D-L-Menthol was already proven not carcinogenic when administered to rats and mice (National Cancer Institute, 1979). In conclusion, It is the fact that Menthol may facilitate initiation or prevent quitting by making the smoke taste less harsh that drives a smoker to gradual states of more addiction.

I proceeded reading through several other articles, different in time of research, length of scoping and depth:
-          American Journal of Epidemiology’s “Menthol cigarettes and the risk of lung cancer” (2003);
-          Food and Chemical Toxicology’s “13-week inhalation toxicity study of menthol cigarette smoke” (1997);
-          American Journal of Public Health’s “Menthol versus Nonmenthol cigarettes” (1995).

None of these articles ever linked menthol used in cigarettes to erectile dysfunction or any sexual issue. Still, it is never too much to say that all the risks associated to smoking are still there: Present, Live and Sound.

In 1960 someone came up with this fireless smoke, today we puff the myth away, 

once again in your The Toxycologist Today.


  1. Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Chronic stress can contribute to a range of health problems. It doesn’t leave the reproductive system unaffected. Men who are subjected to tons of chronic stress during the day are likely to experience issues linked to the erectile response.

    Stress can contribute to some of the health issues that lead to ED – high blood pressure and obesity are just two examples. In addition, it may lead to depression – a condition that is known to cause erection problems.

  3. It is very important that you put down vices when it comes to sexual problems considering that they can have a great impact on how you live your life.