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Menthol Cigarettes Harder to Quit, More Blacks Smoke Them

Non-menthol and menthol types equally harmful

MONDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Menthol cigarettes are harder to quit than their non-menthol counterparts, but both types carry the same risk of atherosclerosis and decline in pulmonary function, according to a study in the Sept. 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Mark J. Pletcher, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a study of 1,535 smokers, 972 of whom smoked menthol and 563 of whom smoked non-menthol cigarettes. Among the cohort, 89 percent of African Americans smoked menthol, compared with just 29 percent of European Americans.

In terms of pack-year of exposure, smokers of both types of cigarettes had similar odds of developing tobacco-related coronary calcification and had similar 10-year pulmonary function decline. Among menthol smokers, there was a significantly higher risk of relapse from attempts to stop smoking.

"The preference for mentholated cigarettes among U.S. smokers is highly associated with ethnicity and seems to be relatively stable across time," the authors write. "It is possible…that switching from menthol cigarettes to non-menthol cigarettes might facilitate subsequent smoking cessation, especially in African Americans, and thereby reduce tobacco-related health disparities," they conclude, adding that their research lends support to the policy goal of regulating tobacco additives and replacing tobacco with "clean" sources of nicotine.

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