Menthol Cigarettes Increase Stroke Risk

New research shows that smoking menthol cigarettes can increase the risk of stroke in addition to the myriad of other health risks of smoking.

Nicholas T. Vozoris, M.H.Sc., MD, from St. Michael´s Hospital in Toronto conducted the study which was published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Working with data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination between 2001 and 2008, Dr Vozoris investigated the link between smoking mentholated cigarettes and the risk of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease. More than 5,000 people over the age of 20 were a part of the study.

Around one quarter of the subjects involved in the study were menthol smokers, giving Dr. Vozoris a comparison between the two types of smokers. According to his results, menthol smokers were more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke. The risk of stroke rose in women, who were 3 times more likely suffer a stroke.

The research didn´t reveal any information as to why the menthol cigarettes increased the risk of stroke, noting women and “non-African Americans” in particular face an even higher risk.

“They´re all bad, but having said that, from a harm-reduction perspective this study does lend to the view of avoiding – at a minimum – mentholated types,” said Dr. Vozoris in his report.

Some experts blame underage smoking on these menthol cigarettes, saying it makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit as menthol flavor helps ease the harshness of the tobacco.

Dr. Vozoris isn´t yet convinced this study proves there is a direct link to smoking menthols and strokes. Instead, he says there could be some other unmeasured differences between menthol and non-menthol smokers causing the increased risk.

In addition, Dr. Vozoris wasn´t sure why the study showed women and non-African Americans at a higher risk than the others. According to Medical News Today, Dr. Vozoris said of the study, “Although potential causal links cannot be established and further research is required to confirm the findings, the association between mentholated cigarette smoking and stroke is noteworthy, given that the results are based on large population-level data, with data spanning nearly a decade, and given that the relationship is independent of multiple sociodemographic, smoking behavior, and health status confounders.”

The study did not find a link between smoking menthols and an increased risk of high blood pressure, congestive heart failure or chronic lung disease. This surprised Gordon Tomaselli, president of the American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He told Reuters reporter Andrew Seaman that it was interesting the study showed an increased risk of stroke but not high blood pressure.

Dr. Vozoris suggests the reason the risk of stroke is higher in menthol smokers could be in the effect the menthol has on the vessels delivering blood to the brain.

Smoking has well been documented to have terrible effects on the body. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking any kind of cigarette can increase a person´s risk of heart disease anywhere from 2 to 4 times more than someone who does not smoke.

According to Reuters, Tomaselli added, “(This) reminds us that the effects of cigarette smoke is pretty broad-based and (it affects) a number of organ systems.”

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