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cigarette smokers
american medical association
menthol cigarettes
nicotine intake
journal of the american medical association
carbon monoxide levels
nicotine
carbon monoxide
Menthol Cigarette Smokers
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Smokers of Menthol Cigarettes and Addiction

A recent study, conducted by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, has shown that it may be more difficult for smokers of menthol cigarettes to quit smoking than those addicted to regular smokes. Also, the difference seems more pronounced in certain ethnic groups. Overall, smokers of menthol cigarettes were 9% less likely to quit smoking than regular cigarette smokers. The quit rates were worst for Hispanic menthol cigarette smokers who showed a 40% decrease whilst African-Americans exhibited a 19% drop in quit rates. Not only are African-Americans more addicted to the menthol product but as a group they are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes. About 70% of African-American smokers are regular menthol cigarette smokers in comparison to 20% of the white smoking population. These results have fuelled the debate regarding whether menthol cigarettes should be banned outright. The FDA has recently recommended that menthol cigarettes should be removed from the market. This would be line with 2009 legislation which banned cigarettes containing other flavourings.

Why are Smokers of Menthol Cigarettes More Addicted?

What is it about the menthol additive that makes the menthol cigarette more addictive? It is suspected that smokers, as they become habituated to nicotine over time, draw more deeply on their cigarette in order to obtain greater amounts of nicotine. However, the harshness of the smoke prevents very deep inhales. This problem does not exist for smokers of menthol cigarettes as the menthol component results in a cooling sensation which aids the deep intake of smoke into the lungs. This simple mechanism translates to an increased nicotine intake for smokers of menthol cigarettes and hence a greater addiction. Data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association seem to support this correlation. They found that smokers of menthol cigarettes exhibited higher nicotine and carbon monoxide levels than smokers of regular cigarettes. A further indicator of how addicted a smoker is to nicotine is how soon they light up after waking. Studies show that smokers of menthol cigarettes are more likely to smoke as soon as they arise than regular cigarette smokers.

Smokers of Menthol Cigarettes More Likely To Be New and Poor Smokers

The menthol in cigarettes may have a role in the initiation of new smokers to the habit. Statistics show that smokers who have smoked for less than a year are more likely to be smokers of menthol cigarettes than the non-mentholated variety. The cooling and anaesthetic qualities of menthol help to reduce the acrid nature of the smoke for new smokers. Furthermore, there is a correlation with socioeconomic status and the likelihood of smoking menthol cigarettes and it is those smokers in the lower income bracket that are more likely to smoke menthol cigarette brands. Perhaps the appeal is that menthol cigarettes provide more 'nicotine for the buck' than the less inhaled, regular smokes?

The Future of Menthol Cigarettes

I suspect the tobacco companies will fight any proposal for the removal of mentholated cigarettes from the market place. They are well aware of the heightened addictive properties of the menthol product and its appeal to new and ethnic minority smokers. It will be interesting to see if the FDA's recommendations become law in the face of 'Big Tobacco' opposition.


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