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Menthol "sweetens the poison," attracts more young smokers

5713002598_4af6e5f8d5Many Halloweens ago, a stranger in a dark house might have reached into a black caldron and handed a child a pack of candy cigarettes. While that practice is less socially acceptable now, tasty tricks can still turn the young into tobacco addicts.

A new study (subscription required) published in the journal Tobacco Control found an increase in menthol cigarette smoking among young adults even as non-menthol tobacco smoking in that population declined during 2004-10. Researchers used data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, reaching nearly 390,000 people age 12 or older and including more than 84,000 smokers.

The study found that menthol cigarette use was more common among smokers ages 12-17 years (56.7 percent) and 18-25 years (45 percent) than among older persons (range 30.5 percent to 32.9 percent).

From a release:

[Lead researcher Gary Giovino, PhD, professor and chair of the University at Buffalo's Department of Community Health and Health Behavior] is particularly alarmed that the findings show youth are heavy consumers of mentholated cigarettes and the use of menthols is specifically associated with being younger, female and of non-white ethnicity.

"This finding indicates that mentholated cigarettes are a 'starter product' for kids in part because menthol makes it easier to inhale for beginners," says Giovino. "Simply stated, menthol sweetens the poison, making it easier to smoke. Young people often think menthol cigarettes are safer, in part because they feel less harsh."

Previously: Menthol cigarette marketing aimed at young African AmericansA conversation about the FDA’s new graphic health warnings for cigarettesPediatrics group calls for stricter limits on tobacco advertising and What’s being done about the way tobacco companies market and manufacture products
Photo by Jonna Michelle

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