Teenagers Smoke More When They Are Lighting Up Menthol Cigarettes
June 20, 2014

Teenagers Smoke More When They Are Lighting Up Menthol Cigarettes

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new Canadian-based study from the University of Waterloo found that teens who smoke menthol cigarettes smoke more of them per day than teens who prefer regular cigarettes.

Published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, the study is the first to connect menthols to greater degrees of nicotine use in Canadian teens.

“The appeal of menthol cigarettes among youth stems from the perception that they are less harmful than regular cigarettes,” said study author Sunday Azagba, a population health scientist at Waterloo. “The minty taste helps mask the noxious properties, but the reality is that they are just as dangerous as any unflavored cigarette.”

The study team found menthol consumers smoked around 43 cigarettes a week, nearly double the 26 smoked by non-menthol users. The research also discovered that menthol smokers were nearly three times more prone to state that they plan to continue smoking in the subsequent year.

The study results are alarming, considering the widely-reported health risks connected with tobacco use, nearly one in 10 Canadian high school students from Grades 10 to 12 admit to being smokers. Data indicates that the many long-term adult smokers start smoking during their teenage years. The Canada's national Youth Smoking Survey has discovered that 32 percent of smokers in high school prefer menthols.

“There is a growing concern that the high popularity of menthol cigarettes among youth may hinder the recent progress in preventing other young people from smoking because many of them may experiment with menthol rather than unflavored brands,” said Azagba.

In July 2010, Canada enacted a prohibition on the selling of most flavored cigarettes, small cigars and blunt wraps, but not menthol cigarettes. Alberta is the only province to pass a ban on menthol products in provincial legislation. That ban has yet to go into effect.

“Our findings indicate that youth smoking of menthol cigarettes is a serious concern,” said Azagba. “It’s clear moving forward that we need new laws to ban all added flavours in all tobacco products."

The results of the Canadian study echo those of a study published last August that was based in the US. Published in Tobacco Control, the study found young adults are embracing mentholated cigarettes more than ever.

“Our findings indicate that youth are heavy consumers of mentholated cigarettes, and that overall menthol cigarette smoking has either remained constant or increased in all three age groups we studied, while non-menthol smoking has decreased,” said study author Gary Giovino, chair of the University at Buffalo Department of Community Health and Health Behaviors.

The study found that menthol cigarettes were most common among smokers 12 to 17 years old, at 57 percent. At 45 percent, they were less popular among the 18-to-25 set. In all, the mint-flavored cigarettes were most associated with smokers that were non-white, female and younger.

“The FDA is considering banning menthol cigarettes, or other regulatory options,” Gioviono said. “This research provides an important view of the trends and patterns of menthol use in the nation as a whole. The FDA will consider these findings and findings from multiple other studies as it goes forward.”