Ashes to ashes, gust to gust. The looming boot of the powers-that-be has finally stubbed-out the menthol. From this week, all sales of the cigarette’s mintier cousin will be permanently banned in the UK.
We can only pray for a state cremation – one final hit of its minty vapour, one lasting gasp of smokeable Airwaves for the nation. That won’t be the case, though – according to reports, 3 million smokers aren’t actually aware of sales being outlawed – they’re more likely to flicker out with the sad flame of a soggy spliff.
They’ve certainly lived a wild life. Starting with Spud way back in 1924, menthols were billed as more refreshing and relaxing than standard cigarettes, almost medicinal in their ability to soothe a tickly throat. Kool and Salem soon followed, churning out images of ice-cold vibes and satisfying satiation. “The Longer You Smoke, The More You’ll Like Kool Super Longs,” one ’70s Kool ad quipped. Which, to be fair, is true: by the mid-00s, they accounted for a quarter of all cigarette sales in the UK.
Everyone knows someone who just smokes menthols. But while they may have been built on a tingly coolness, they never reached a real point of cool. What’s more, they’re also worse for you than their OG counterparts. They actually open up your airways and mask the harsh taste, leading to a higher intake of smoke. Menthols jack-up nicotine bioavailability in your brain, which is why they feel so orgasmic. It’s for these reasons that they’ve been given the boot.
Yet, for all their awkwardness, there’s something special about them. Aside from the sizzling warmth and nicotine rush, they’re almost an entirely different beast to your bog-standard blem. While your usual cig will leave you with the foetid aftertaste of a rusting park barbeque, menthols are a heady bouquet of Kendal Mint Cake, raita, chewing gum, Listerine and that ghastly Green Mint & Tea Tree shower gel that’s claimed so many genitalia.
In serotonin-dripping smoking areas, they hold a certain currency. The less ambitious of us may paw away the offer of a menthol filter with a wide-eyed grin. But, for the more intrepid, it’s an after-hours treat, a revitalising slap that hits the spot and beckons mint-laced kisses and life-changing chats.
Spare a thought, too, for the click-on cigs: strange things that take a kind of Kingsmill 50/50 approach to the proceedings, trying to tingle a variety of palettes. You’d have to have some form of ungodly restraint to not click – but once you do, you can’t go back. Yeah, actually, they can fuck off.
But, menthols. Ah, menthols. Cigarettes, of course, are really, really, really bad. And, as we’ve discovered, menthols are really, really, really uncool. But there was a certain awkwardness behind them, an enigma not bestowed upon normal cigs, that gave them a certain charm.
Lighters in the air, folks – soon cinder will turn to ember to ash – and the last flame of the last menthol will flicker, falter and fade forever.