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How Menthol Is Key to the Tobacco Industry's Strategy of Recruiting and Retaining Young Smokers in Singapore

      ABSTRACT

      Introduction

      Singapore has a strong and well-established tobacco control policy, but smoking rates among young Singaporeans remain relatively high. In other countries, tobacco companies have used menthol to encourage smoking among young people. Singapore still permits the sale of menthol tobacco products and little is known about the tobacco industry's internal strategy and motivation for marketing menthol tobacco in Singapore.

      Methods

      Tobacco industry documents analysis using the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library. Findings were triangulated with Euromonitor market data on menthol tobacco in Singapore, and trend data on smoking prevalence in Singapore from the First National Morbidity Survey, Labour Force Survey, National Health Survey, and National Health Surveillance Survey.

      Results

      Menthol tobacco products became popular among young Singaporeans in the early 1980s, largely due to a health-consciousness trend among young people and the misperception that menthol tobacco products were “safer.” Philip Morris, in an attempt to compete with R.J. Reynolds for starter smokers, developed and launched several menthol brands designed to appeal to youth. While many brands initially failed, as of February 2018, menthol tobacco products comprise 48% of Singapore's total tobacco market.

      Conclusions

      Menthol is key to the tobacco industry's strategy of recruiting and retaining young smokers in Singapore. Banning the sale of menthol tobacco products will be an important part of preventing smoking in Singapore's younger generation.

      Keywords

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