Black People and Menthol Cigarettes - is it just a US thing?

In the United States, there is a strong association between black people and smoking menthol cigarettes. It seems that the majority of African-Americans who smoke smoke menthol cigarettes, while a majority of white smokers smoke non-menthol cigarettes. In addition to the trend, popular culture associates menthols with African-Americans.

Is this trend seen elsewhere in the world? Do Black African people elsewhere in the world seem to gravitate heavily toward menthol cigarettes to the exclusion of non-menthol cigarettes like in the US? Is there a pop culture perception that this is so?

Dave Chappelle did a Jeopardy skit on this issue. Question: “Why do blacks smoke menthols?” Answer: “Nobody knows.” The same preference issue can be made for beer vs wine and host of other foods, beverages, etc. Nobody knows.

Drawn Together did a skit on it as well. They showed that the real reason black people did poorly on standardized testing was because the pencils they handed out were menthol flavored–cut to (black character) Foxy Brown chewing on the end of her pencil instead of taking the test.

The Howard Stern Show denizens mention an urban legend common in their high school days, that smoking menthol cigarettes would cure a sore throat or cough. As you try and research the story, maybe that’s an angle to work on – someone cut menthol flavoring into tobacco in pre-US Civil war days, as a medicine, and the cultural meme still propagates. That’s as good a guess as any, if for no other reason that researching it will disprove it and lead us back to the same “Nobody knows” answer.

The OP isn’t asking why blacks prefer mentholated cigarettes, he just wants to know if the same is true in places other than the US (not that I have an answer, just to get the thread back on track).

I seem to recall that menthol cigarettes were heavily advertised in urban areas, back when there was such as thing as tobacco advertisements, so it’s likely a case of people being effected by advertisements - more blacks may smoke menthols because menthols were marketed towards them.

Right. So, if I went to South Africa and took a poll of smokers, would I find that Black South Africans smoke menthols at a greater rate than White South Africans? Or Cuba? Do Black Cubans smoke menthols at a greater rate? Substitute the country of your expertise that has a significant Black and Non-Black population.

That’s certainly part of it. In the U.S., what brand of cigarette is most associated with menthol cigarettes? It is Kool which was developed and marketed for that purpose quite successfully.

Here is an a good article on how menthol cigarettes became the favored types of American blacks [warning PDF but interesting].

I don’t know if the same type of marketing was intentionally done in other countries. There are a number of brands of menthol cigarettes however. Even Marlboro has them and they aren’t exclusive to blacks. I grew up in a poor area in the Deep South and lots of poor white people, those popularly known as white trash, also smoked them. I used to smoke and enjoyed a good menthol on occasion as well especially if it was free and the only thing going.

I’m in Ireland and I’ve never heard this association before. The only black smoker I know smokes Silk Cut Purple (non-menthol).

In fact, I’m not positive we actually have menthol cigarettes here.

Kools for the win plus hen. You know like they always say, once you go menthol you dont go back.

And then it was Newport, which are still quite prevalent amongst the black folk I know who still smoke. Which is weird, because Newport ads always looked like they took clip art from a J. Crew catalog and splashed the Newport mint green and orange logo all over it, but hey, whatever.

The only person I’ve ever met who smoked Marlboro menthols was my dad. The other big menthol was Salem, and I had a few friends whose dads smoked those too. I like a menthol now and again myself, but I can’t remember the last time I bought some.

I’m in the U.S, and I’ve never heard of it. But I do live near one of the whitest towns in America.

I associate menthol cigarettes with women, and I do note that hanging around a menthol smoker in a confined space doesn’t hurt my throat as much

There was just something on the news a few days ago–sorry I don’t recall which radio station I heard it on, but it was news and not commentary–something about cigarette companies aggressively marketing menthol cigarettes in third world countries because menthol cigarettes are easier/more pleasant to smoke for novice smokers–sort of like how sweet, fruity crap like Boone’s Farm lured underage drinkers back in the Seventies, I imagine. This might explain why tobacco companies aggressively marketed menthol cigarettes in traditionally African-American neighborhoods, if they did so.

Sorry I don’t have a cite for the news story. :frowning:

My cousin is a white guy who smokes menthol, and so did his mom. Both of them are very urban, and lived and worked with a lot of black people. Could be something to this.

In my limited experience of non-American black smokers–Africans and black Caribbeans–none of them smoke menthol cigarettes.

White Americans who align culturally with black Americans often do.

My aunt in Northern Ireland used to smoke 'em years ago but she’s the only person I ever knew who did.

I’ve also found this to be the case. It’s also perhaps worth noting that Newports packaging contains a symbol that’s basically an upside down Nike Swoosh and Nike branded shoes and clothing also tend to be popular amongst the same demographic.

Same for me. Several Nigerian friends were encouraged to try them by one of the African-Americans who was around the student union a lot; they didn’t care for them at all. The reaction was not unlike that of a non-smoker trying any cigarette. North-Africans/Egyptians seemed more likely to adapt and adopt menthols.

(It was actually quite funny to watch - these huge guys with all these tribal scars screwing up their faces in total “yuk” mode)

According to this study, 79% of all cigarette sales to African-Americans were menthol cigarettes.

So, I grew up in a very rural, very white community with a delightful trace of old-school racism (not a whole lot, but it was always there). I know I heard at least a few times people insulted for smoking Newports because, y’know, they were for blacks.

So there might be some self-selection both directions. Menthols DO taste good in my limited experience. Black / urban culture was told they were ok, so they smoke 'em. In rural / suburban communities, that encouragment wasn’t there, so they don’t. Now the perception of racial lines reinforces the racial lines.