Menthol Cigarettes May Make it Tougher to Quit Smoking for Certain Populations
Could a mint-flavored additive to cigarettes have a negative impact on smoking cessation efforts? Recent research from investigators at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and UMDNJ-School of Public Health finds that menthol cigarettes are associated with decreased quitting in the United States and that this effect is more pronounced for blacks and Puerto Ricans. The findings appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.06.039) in October 2011.
Previous studies regarding the impact of smoking menthol cigarettes and smoking cessation efforts have produced mixed results. For instance, some research did not take into account the overall population of smokers, while other studies lacked focus on periods of successful smoking cessation and instead targeted attempts to quit. This current study, Smoking Cessation Prevalence among Menthol and Non-Menthol Smokers in the United States, looks at whether those who smoke menthol cigarettes are less likely to quit than smokers of non-menthol cigarettes and whether these findings differ by race/ethnicity as well as among various subgroups of smokers, such as those trying to quit.
Utilizing data from the 2003 and 2006-2007 National Cancer Institute Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey, investigators focused on white, black and Hispanic “ever-smokers,” who were defined as current smokers and former smokers who quit in the past five years.
Overall, menthol smoking was more common among females and young adults, ages 18 to 24. Menthol smoking varied considerably by race/ethnicity; among blacks, 71.8 percent smoked menthols, which is significantly greater than whites (21 percent) and Hispanics (28.1 percent). However, among Hispanics there were wide variations. Menthol smoking was more common among those of Puerto Rican descent (62 percent) than among those of Mexican (19.9 percent) and other Hispanic origins (26.5 percent).
The study further found that menthol cigarette smoking was associated with lower levels of smoking cessation compared to non-menthol smokers, and this relationship was more pronounced among blacks and those of Puerto Rican descent.
CINJ Member Cristine Delnevo, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research Program and interim chair, Department of Health Education and Behavioral Science at UMDNJ-School of Public Health, is the lead author of the study. She notes one thing that sets this study apart from others on this subject is further recognizing the diversity of the Hispanic population.
“Historically, smoking cessation research has generally grouped Hispanics together and contrasted them with non-Hispanic whites, thus ignoring the broad heterogeneity of the Hispanic population. By further drilling down into these subgroups, the opportunity exists to develop targeted interventions for quit efforts among this population,” she stated.
The research was supported by the FDA Center for Tobacco Products; however, the work and conclusions of this study are solely those of the authors and not the FDA.