Kicking a smoking habit is tough. New research says it’s even harder for smokers who buy menthol cigarettes — a type popular with teens and African Americans.
Penn State College of Medicine researchers initially wanted to know what predicts who successfully quits smoking and who doesn’t.
They discovered African American smokers, 80-percent of whom smoke menthol cigarettes, had very low success rates. Those who smoked regular cigarettes had the same success rate as white smokers.
The study’s lead author, Jonathan Foulds, said choosing menthol cigarettes is partially influenced by economic factors. Those with less money are more affected by price increases, forcing them to smoke fewer cigarettes per day, but intensely smoking each one. The cooling mint flavor soothes the harsh smoke.
“So we think that menthol makes it easier to inhale more nicotine per cigarette and we think that’s also a more addictive way to smoke,” he said. “You’re getting bigger nicotine spike per cigarette, which makes it more reinforcing and harder to quit.”
Foulds said menthol cigarettes may provide higher levels of carbon monoxide and nicotine per cigarette smoked.
Debra Brown of the American Lung Association said when it comes to teen smoking, it’s important to remember menthol really is mint flavor.
“This is the best way to get young people addicted to smoking because many young people will start using menthol cigarettes because it disguises the unpleasant taste,” she said. “It adds a fresh minty flavor or it actually cools the effect of nicotine or the smoke going into the system.”
More than half of all teen smokers use menthol cigarettes.