Menthol cigarettes: the 'starter' drug for young females

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The latest trend among teen smokers?

Menthol cigarettes, according to a new study from the University of Buffalo Department of Community Health and Health Behaviors.

The rise in sales and marketing of menthols, the research found, is contributing to consumption – which is high among young females of non-white ethnicities.

The study

One of the world's leading tobacco surveillance researchers, Gary Giovino, and his team estimated menthol and non-menthol cigarette use during 2004-2010 using annual data on approximately 390,000 people from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.

Results showed that menthol cigarette use was most common among adolescents 12-17 years of age. And among all adolescents, the percentage who smoked non-methol cigarettes decreased from 2004-2010, while menthol smoking statistics remained the same. Among adults, menthol smoking rates increased during this time period, while non-menthol smoking rates decreased.

Menthol cigarettes may be more popular among young people because they provide a cooling effect and minty taste when smoked, which can make smoking feel less harsh on the lungs, the researchers noted.

In 2011, an FDA panel even advised that removing menthols from the market could be helpful, since menthol cigarettes may be more difficult to quit.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute the same year found that smoking menthol cigarettes was associated with lower rates of lung cancer than non-menthol cigarettes - a statistic that clever tobacco tycoons may have capitalized on to beef up marketing campaigns for menthols.

A "starter" product?

Giovino says the findings of his study are alarming, particularly given that young, non-white women - an already vulnerable population - seem to be using menthols the most.

"This finding indicates that mentholated cigarettes are a "starter product" for kids, in part because menthol makes it easier to inhale for beginners," Giovino said. "Simply stated, menthol sweetens the poison, making it easier to smoke. Young people often think menthol cigarettes are safer, in part because they feel less harsh."

Results indicate that the FDA should move forward with a menthol ban, Giovino concluded.

The study was published in the international journal Tobacco Control.

Source: Science Daily

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