If you thought a menthol cigarette is a smoker's safe alternative to the non-menthol ones, then a study from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) should serve as a wake-up call to you. The results of the study have revealed that menthol cigarettes are more addictive and harder to quit than traditional cigarettes.
The study involving 1,700 smokers attending a Tobacco Dependence Clinic at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, showed that 'light' cigarettes masks the harshness of the nicotine and toxins and affects the way the cigarette is smoked and makes it more addictive.
"We previously found that menthol cigarette smokers take in more nicotine and carbon monoxide per cigarette. This study shows that menthol smokers also find it harder to quit, despite smoking fewer cigarettes per day," said study author Kunal Gandhi, MBBS, MPH, a researcher in the division of addiction psychiatry at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The researchers found that menthol cigarettes are harder to quit, particularly among African American and Latino smokers.
"These results build on growing evidence suggesting that menthol is not a neutral flavoring in cigarettes. It masks the harshness of the nicotine and toxins, affects the way the cigarette is smoked and makes it more deadly and addictive," said Jonathan Foulds, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program.
"More than 80 percent of the African American smokers attending our clinic smoke menthols, and they have half the quit rate of African Americans who smoke non-menthol cigarettes," he added.
They believe the cooling effect of the menthol makes it easier to inhale more nicotine from each cigarette and, therefore, to obtain a stronger and more addictive nicotine dose.
"That may be part of the reason why African Americans have much higher rates of lung cancer," Foulds said.
The researchers hope that their findings may have implications for future regulation of cigarettes.