ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2009) — Menthol cigarettes are harder to quit, particularly among African American and Latino smokers, according to researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).
That is the finding of a study which examined the effects of menthol on quit rates among a diverse group of nearly 1,700 smokers attending a Tobacco Dependence Clinic at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health. “Lower quit rates among African American and Latino menthol cigarette smokers at a tobacco treatment clinic” appears in next month’s print edition of The International Journal of Clinical Practice.
“We previously found that menthol cigarette smokers take in more nicotine and carbon monoxide per cigarette. This study shows that menthol smokers also find it harder to quit, despite smoking fewer cigarettes per day,” said study author Kunal Gandhi, MBBS, MPH, a researcher in the division of addiction psychiatry at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Jonathan Foulds, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program, added “These results build on growing evidence suggesting that menthol is not a neutral flavoring in cigarettes. It masks the harshness of the nicotine and toxins, affects the way the cigarette is smoked and makes it more deadly and addictive.”
According to Foulds, “More than 80 percent of the African American smokers attending our clinic smoke menthols, and they have half the quit rate of African Americans who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.”
The researchers believe the cooling effect of the menthol makes it easier to inhale more nicotine from each cigarette and, therefore, to obtain a stronger and more addictive nicotine dose. “That may be part of the reason why African Americans have much higher rates of lung cancer,” Foulds said.
The researchers also are concerned that more young and Latino smokers are becoming addicted to menthol cigarettes. The tobacco industry may target its marketing of menthol cigarettes to groups with less cash to spend, such as youths, with the aim of getting them hooked even on fewer cigarettes per day, they said.
Their study findings may have implications for future regulation of cigarettes. Recent legislation in New Jersey and pending federal legislation bans fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes but allows menthol to be added.