Menthol Cigarettes More AddictiveJan 12, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP
A recent study reveals that menthol cigarettes are far more addictive, especially among certain groups of smokers, than nonmenthol cigarettes. According to University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) researchers, African American and Latino menthol cigarette smokers experienced lower “quit rates.”
The study looked at the effects of menthol on cigarette quit rates among a diverse group of about 1,700 smokers who attended a UMDNJ School of Public Health Tobacco Dependence Clinic and found, “Lower quit rates among African American and Latino menthol cigarette smokers” it said 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.
Tobacco Dependence Program director Jonathan Foulds pointed out that, “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.” Foulds added that “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,” said the UMDNJ. The UMDNJ team believes that the menthol’s cooling effect makes it easier to inhale more nicotine and provides stronger, more addictive doses from each cigarette, which, “May be part of the reason why African Americans have much higher rates of lung cancer,” Foulds said.
The team also expressed concern over the increase in younger and Latino smokers and this group becoming addicted to menthol cigarettes, noting that industry may begin to target its menthol cigarette marketing to groups with very limited disposable income in the hopes they become addicted on fewer cigarettes, said the UMDNJ.
In New Jersery, where UMDNJ is located, recent legislation has banned fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes—federal regulation on this is pending—although menthol continues to be a legal additive. The team hopes that this study might change future cigarette regulations regarding flavoring.
Cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless and pipe tobacco consist of dried tobacco leaves and over 4,000 individual compounds with 43 being known carcinogens. Hundreds of substances are added by manufacturers, including ammonia, tar, and, carbon monoxide and manufacturers do not provide the public details on the precise amount of additives used making it difficult to accurately gauge public health risk, says The American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS also notes that 440,000 people die in the U.S. annually because of tobacco use, with one in five related to smoking.
Cigarettes are a major cause of cancers of the lung, larynx, oral cavity, pharynx, and esophagus; a contributing cause in cancers of the bladder, pancreas, liver, uterine cervix, kidney, stomach, colon and rectum, and some leukemias; are a major cause of heart disease, bronchitis, emphysema, and stroke; are a contributor to pneumonia severity and to adverse female reproductive and fetal health; and carry deadly effects in second- and, now, third-hand smoke.