Greetings, Matt: We’ve got a few questions about tobacco. How do they “flavour” pipe tobacco — you know, to make it smell like cherries? Also, what about menthol cigarettes. Is that minty zing in the filter or in the tobacco? We knew you could help. — Sirena and Sophia, who once visited New Orleans and bought a postcard
The surgeon general would be pleased. The question came in on a card picturing a large cemetery. And I guess we better answer this while there’s still a tobacco industry. Ironic factette: It’s the 200th anniversary of the cig this year, “invented” in Cuba, when poor people followed wealthy cigar smokers around, sniped their discarded butts, wrapped the remaining tobacco in paper, and smoked it.
We’ve come a long way, baby. The minty zing is from menthol applied to the inner wrapper of the pack, which vaporizes and flavors the tobacco. Or menthol can be dissolved in denatured alcohol and applied directly to the tobacco. Ditto for cherry flavor, though sometimes it comes from the shredded bark of wild cherry. Other flavorings found in tobacco? Sugar, basil, vanilla, bay, alfalfa, honey, cocoa, licorice. Mmmm-mmmm!