No more menthol in cigarettes and smoking tobacco
Menthol conceals the taste of tobacco, which in turn facilitates starting smoking. It has been proven that there is a particularly high hazard potential from menthol cigarettes for young people who are frequently still in the entry or familiarisation stages. Subsequently, menthol cigarettes may no longer be sold in the EU from 20 May 2020 onwards. Moreover, any use of menthol as an additive in cigarettes and smoking tobacco is prohibited in Germany from 20 May onwards. Menthol triggers a cold sensation, making it easier for tobacco smoke, which is prickly and irritates the throat, to be inhaled. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) had already indicated this connection in 2015 in its health risk assessment on additives for tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. In the opinion, the BfR assessed the health hazards of tobacco additives, which may lead to the suppression of the body's own warning signs, and its effects on the potential for addiction. "The end of menthol in smoking tobacco is a success for our scientific work, which serves policy makers as a basis for science-based political decisions," says BfR President Professor Andreas Hensel.
On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day on 31 May 2020, the BfR points out the hazards of cigarette smoking. Amongst other things, the BfR is assessing the health risks of additives in tobacco. Cigarette consumption represents a major problem for consumer health protection. As well as diseases such as lung, larynx and bladder cancer, cigarette consumption also increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, vascular diseases (smoker's leg) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The health risk assessment of tobacco products, hookahs and e-cigarettes is one of the core tasks of the BfR.
The ban on menthol in cigarettes and all smoking tobacco products, such as cigarillos or hookah tobacco, which came into effect on 20 May 2020, represents one of the current successes of the scientific work of the BfR. Menthol activates certain receptors (TRPM8), subsequently triggering a cold sensation. This facilitates the inhalation of aerosols such as cigarette smoke. This in turn facilitates entry into cigarette consumption and suppresses physical warning symptoms of cigarette smoke, such as sore throat or coughing, which is based on the concentration of aldehydes (e.g. formaldehyde and acrolein) and irritant gases such as ammonia, amongst other things. In research work, the BfR proved that even very low concentrations of menthol are enough to activate the sensory TRPM8 receptors. These concentrations are below the figures that lead to a characteristic aroma.
The facilitation of inhalation was named in the EU Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) in 2014 as one of the reasons why additives in tobacco can be prohibited. The goal of the directive is to stop young people in particular from starting the consumption of tobacco products, and to reduce the attractiveness of the products for this age group. The BfR has scientifically advised the federal government in the preparation of national legislation. In 2016, the EU Tobacco Products Directive was implemented in national law through the Tobacco Products Act and the Ordinance on Tobacco Products. The transition period for the use of menthol in smoking tobacco products ended on 19 May 2020.
Further information on the subject from the BfR website
- Health risk assessment of additives for tobacco products and electronic cigarettes (in German) (PDF file,79.20 KB)
- Activation of the cold-receptor TRPM8 by low levels of menthol in tobacco products
- Health risk assessment of tobacco products
About the BfR
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.
This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.