Menthol Cigarettes Harder to Quit

A new study finds that smokers who use menthol cigarettes have a harder time stopping smoking.

People who prefer a menthol cigarette have a harder time quitting than those who smoke regular cigarettes. The effect is even more pronounced within some ethnic groups, and Puerto Ricans appear to have the hardest time quitting menthol cigarettes.

The study, published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at smoking-cessation rates among menthol and non-menthol cigarette smokers. They stop-smoking rates were then broken down by ethnic groups.

Hispanics from Puerto Rico who smoked menthol cigarettes were 43% less likely to quit than non-menthol smokers. African-Americans were 19% less likely to successfully quit smoking if they smoked menthol cigarettes, although 71% of black smokers preferred menthol cigarettes.

The authors support the recent advice by an FDA advisory committee calling for the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace.

“Because our evidence suggests that the presence of menthol may partially explain the observed differences in cessation outcomes, the recent calls to ban this flavoring would be prudent and evidence-based,” the authors conclude.

In the past, there has been opposition from the African-American community to banning menthol cigarettes.

"It is no secret that menthol cigarettes provide a distinctive taste that is preferred by many African Americans," National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford said, as reported by "In making a recommendation, it is my fervent hope that the committee not make a decision based on mixed information, decades-old marketing information, inconclusive studies or preconceived notions."

Menthol cigarettes cause a cooling sensation in the mouth and throat when the smoke is inhaled. They have also been shown to inhibit nicotine metabolism, letting the substance stay in the bloodstream for longer periods. As of 2006, menthol cigarettes made up 20% of the American cigarette market.

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