Menthol Cigarettes - smokers who started recently more likely to smoke menthols..

December 3, 2009 - New national study finds that smokers who started recently are more likely than longer-term smokers to use menthol cigarettes. Also, the percentage of current smokers who use menthol cigarettes increases.

Menthol cigarette use is higher among persons who started smoking in the past year (44.6 percent) than among longer-term smokers (31.8 percent) according to a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In addition, among persons who smoked in the past month, the percentage using menthol cigarettes increased from 31.0 percent in 2004 to 33.9 percent in 2008. This increase was most pronounced among adolescent smokers aged 12 to 17 (up from 43.5 percent to 47.7 percent), and young adult smokers aged 18 to 25 (up from 34.1 percent to 40.8 percent).

Menthol is an additive used in cigarettes that masks the harshness of cigarette smoke by giving the smoker the sensation of coolness in the mouth, pharynx, and lungs. By masking the harshness, menthol can make it easier for young people to start smoking. Some recent research indicates that menthol cigarettes may be more difficult to quit than other types of cigarettes. Menthol is the only cigarette flavoring still permitted under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, but the law calls for research on the public health effects of its continued use in cigarettes.

"Menthol cigarettes may play a role in perpetuating cigarette smoking - one of the most preventable and deadly public health problems plaguing this nation,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “The apparent allure that menthol cigarettes have among younger, newer smokers is particularly troubling as menthol cigarettes may tempt more people to take up this dangerous deadly habit."

The study shows that the levels of menthol cigarette use among Black smokers (82.6 percent) remains much higher than White smokers (23.8 percent), Hispanic smokers (32.3 percent) and smokers from other racial and ethnic groups. Among Blacks, long-term smokers were more likely to use menthol cigarettes than were those who took up smoking in the past year, which is the opposite of the pattern found among White and Hispanic smokers.

There was also a noticeable rise in the percentage using menthol cigarettes among male current smokers – from 2004 to 2008 (26.9 percent to 30.8 percent).

Use of Menthol Cigarettes is based on 2004 - 2008 data drawn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which obtained responses from 340,476 persons aged 12 or older. The full report is available online at URL..

Reference: Smokers Who Started Recently More Likely than Longer-Term Smokers to Use Menthol Cigarettes, New National Study Finds Percentage of Current Smokers Who Use Menthol Cigarettes Increases, SAMHSA, 12/3/2009.
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December 22, 2009 at 11:43 AM

Lorillard Tobacco Company issued the following statement with regard to the report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) about the use of menthol cigarettes, which was released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

"While we have not had the opportunity to review this report in depth, the most comprehensive government sponsored studies show that populations who use menthol have lower smoking rates across all age groups.

"Importantly, this report appears to ignore the chief finding of the survey -- that menthol use among underage smokers has leveled off in the last year. According to current data, adult smoking rates continue to decline, while youth rates are at historic lows and have been in decline for more than a decade.

"The current weight of scientific evidence does not support the conclusion that menthol cigarettes confer a greater health risk than non-menthol.

"Lorillard looks forward to cooperating with the FDA as it makes an objective science-based assessment in its review of menthol."

Posted on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco Company