Most youth prefer menthol cigarettes over regular cigarettes: Survey

Adult smokers who are younger, from racial/ethnic minority groups, and with mental health issues are substantially more likely to use menthol. The journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research publishes the findings.
Representative image
Representative image

NEW YORK: According to a study conducted by the City University of New York and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, menthol consumption has increased over the past ten years among adult smokers in the United States.

Adult smokers who are younger, from racial/ethnic minority groups, and with mental health issues are substantially more likely to use menthol. The journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research publishes the findings.

About two out of every five smokers of cigarettes use menthol often. In 2020, more than 80% of Black smokers favoured menthol, which is a consistent percentage compared to earlier studies.

It was noted by Renee D. Goodwin, PhD, of the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, that "approximately 50% of smokers who were Hispanic, female, ages 18-25 and 26-34, lesbian/gay, and adults with mental health problems, used menthol in 2020.

This is higher than previously reported and suggests use has expanded across all segments of the population of adults who smoke cigarettes."

Although the Center for Tobacco Products declared its desire to create a product standard that would limit menthol as a defining flavour in cigarettes, action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been missing. Canada and the United Kingdom have outlawed menthol as a cigarette flavouring.

However, experts caution that cigarettes">menthol cigarettes will probably be on the market for a long time given the regulatory procedure needed to publish a product standard and the possibility of tobacco industry litigation.

According to Goodwin's findings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposed ban on menthol as a distinguishing flavour in cigarettes "may have a significant impact on public health, particularly among youth and vulnerable populations."

The researchers examined nationally representative annual data from 128,327 Americans 18 and older from the 2008-2019 and 2020 waves of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in order to estimate trends in menthol use among adults who smoke cigarettes by sociodemographic, mental health, and substance use variables (NSDUH). The DSM-IV criteria for a major depressive episode were used to measure depression.

From 34% in 2008 to 41% in 2019, menthol cigarette consumption among those who smoke increased significantly overall. In 2020, menthol was used by 43% of adults who had smoked cigarettes within the previous month.

Menthol use was most prevalent among adults of colour (80 per cent). Menthol was utilised by more than 50% of Hispanic women who were also young (ages 18 to 34), lesbian/gay, in acute psychological distress, and cigar smokers. Menthol consumption increased more quickly among adults, Hispanics, light cigarette smokers (1-5 cigarettes per day), and cigar smokers.

One interesting finding was the rise in menthol use among Hispanic people over the study period (from 34% in 2008 to 48% in 2019 and 51% in 2020), with a faster rise among Hispanic smokers than among Non-Hispanic White smokers.

Goodwin notes that there hasn't been much research done in this area until now and suggests many reasons why cigarettes">menthol cigarettes are becoming more and more common among Hispanic smokers. "For one, there is evidence that cigarettes">menthol cigarettes are being marketed to Hispanic adults more frequently."

According to Goodwin, "Our study reveals ongoing and unabated disparities in menthol usage, particularly among members of tobacco use disparity groups." The increase in menthol use among smokers over the previous ten years was broadly noticeable across categories, according to data from 2020.

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