The findings from the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo mark the first time that menthol cigarettes have been directly linked to elevated nicotine addiction among youth in Canada.
Sunday Azagba, a scientist at Propel and lead author on the paper, said the appeal of menthol cigarettes among youth stems from the perception that they are less harmful than regular cigarettes. The minty taste helps mask the noxious properties, but the reality is that they are just as dangerous as any unflavoured cigarette.
The study found that menthol users smoked an average of 43 cigarettes a week, close to double the 26 smoked by non-menthol users. The study also found that menthol smokers were almost three times more likely to report that they intend to continue smoking in the next year.
Despite the well-documented health risks associated with tobacco use, almost one in 10 Canadian high school students from Grades 10 to 12 are current smokers. Research shows that the majority of long-term adult smokers start smoking during their adolescence. The national Youth Smoking Survey has found that 32 per cent of smokers in high school smoke menthols.
The Canadian Cancer Society funded the study, which examined a nationally representative sample of 4,736 smokers in Canadian high schools drawn from Health Canada's 2010-2011 Youth Smoking Survey.
The study has been published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control.