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Smoking cessation is more difficult for menthol cigarette smokers

06/16/2009 - News

Smoking cessation is more difficult for menthol cigarette smokers

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD

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African Americans are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than are European Americans. And they are also more likely to develop heart disease, cancer and other smoking-related problems. So, is there a connection? Are menthol cigarettes more dangerous than regular ones?

Researchers at the University of California have been pondering this issue. They studied a group of 1,535 smokers, looking at exposure to menthol cigarettes, coronary calcification - a sign of heart disease - and lung function over ten years. Sixty three per cent smoked menthol cigarettes (89 per cent of African-Americans, in this group). The menthol smokers smoked fewer cigarettes, drank less alcohol, and were more likely to be female, younger and unemployed, as well as having a higher body mass index.

Those on menthol cigarettes were more likely to still be smoking at the end of the study compared to those on non-menthol cigarettes. Among those who did try to quit, initial success was as likely among menthol cigarette smokers. It's just that those on menthol cigarettes were less likely to even try to quit. The menthol smokers were also twice as likely to relapse after quitting. Both calcification and decline in lung function were linked to the number of cigarettes smoked - but it didn't matter if these were menthol or not. The menthol in cigarettes does not, directly, make them more damaging to health. The harm comes from the unwillingness of menthol cigarette smokers to quit. One way round this might be to switch from menthol to non-menthol cigarettes - and then try to quit!

Source
Archives of Internal Medicine 25th September 2006 Volume 166 pages 1915-1922

Created on: 09/28/2006
Reviewed on: 06/16/2009

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