A new study on mentholated cigarette consumption in the U.S. has found an increase in menthol cigarette smoking among young adults, according to a Science Daily story. The study is said to conclude that efforts to reduce smoking are probably being thwarted by the sale and marketing of mentholated cigarettes, ‘including emerging varieties of established youth brands’.
“Our findings indicate that youth are heavy consumers of mentholated cigarettes, and that overall menthol cigarette smoking has either remained constant or increased in all three age groups we studied, while non-menthol smoking has decreased,” said lead researcher Gary Giovino, Ph.D., professor and chair of the University at the Buffalo Department of Community Health and Health Behaviors.
Giovino, one of the world’s leading tobacco surveillance researchers, estimated menthol and non-menthol cigarette use during 2004–2010 using annual data on nearly 390,000 persons 12 years old and older who took part in the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. The data included more than 84,000 smokers.
The results, which were published online in the international journal Tobacco Control, were said to have shown that:
• Among cigarette smokers, menthol cigarette use was more common among 12- to 17-year-olds (56.7 percent) and 18- to 25-year-olds (45 percent) than among older persons (range 30.5 percent to 32.9 perent).
• Menthol use was associated with being younger, female, and of nonwhite race or ethnicity.
• Among all adolescents, the proportion who smoked non-menthol cigarettes decreased from 2004 to 2010, while menthol smoking rates remained constant.
• Among all young adults, the proportion who smoked non-menthol cigarettes also declined, while menthol smoking rates increased.
• The use of Camel menthol and Marlboro menthol increased among adolescent and young adult smokers, particularly non-Hispanic whites, during the study period.
“The study results should inform the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] regarding the potential public health impact of a menthol ban,” Giovino says.
“The FDA is considering banning menthol cigarettes, or other regulatory options. This research provides an important view of the trends and patterns of menthol use in the nation as a whole. The FDA will consider these findings and findings from multiple other studies as it goes forward.”
Giovino is particularly alarmed that the findings show young people are heavy consumers of mentholated cigarettes, and the use of menthol is specifically associated with being younger, female and of nonwhite ethnicity.
“This finding indicates that mentholated cigarettes are a ‘starter product’ for kids in part because menthol makes it easier to inhale for beginners,” says Giovino. “Simply stated, menthol sweetens the poison, making it easier to smoke. Young people often think menthol cigarettes are safer, in part because they feel less harsh.”