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Menthol cigarettes fool teenagers, researchers claim

The FDA could eventually ban or phase out the menthol cigarettes that some experts say can be more enticing and possibly addicting than regular cigarettes.
The FDA could eventually ban or phase out the menthol cigarettes that some experts say can be more enticing and possibly addicting than regular cigarettes.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Researchers say teenagers are fooled by the menthol ingredient in cigarettes by thinking it is less dangerous. The new study published in Cancer Causes and Control suggests teenagers who smoke menthol cigarettes also have an elevated nicotine addiction and smoke more than non-menthol teen smokers, according to a press release from the Waterloo University on June 20. Additionally, the study found the menthol-smoking teens reported their intentions to continue smoking compared to the non-menthol smokers.

A Canadian Youth Smoking Survey (2010-2011) consisting of 4,736 high school cigarette smokers contributed to the findings. They found the teens who preferred menthol flavored cigarettes smoked an average of 43 cigarettes a week, almost twice as much as the non-menthol user. The non-menthol teens smoked an average of 26 a week.

The scientist and lead author of the study alleges these findings insinuate the menthol flavored cigarettes fool the teens into believing it is less harmful than the non-menthol flavored cigarettes. While the connection between increased usage and menthol cigarettes appears to be correlated, it may not be causation.

Previously in 2010, Canada enforced a ban on the sale of most flavored cigarettes, excluding menthol. Alberta was the sole province to include the ban on menthol. Therefore, the surveyed teens who preferred smoking flavored cigarettes were limited to the menthol products, not any of the other flavors. Hence, the menthol would appear to be the deceiving factor in the study. However, the tendency to smoke more cigarettes with no intention of cessation could include all flavored cigarettes if there was no ban on other flavors.

The study was conducted on the premise that menthol flavored cigarettes are harmful and comparatively noxious to the teen smoker verses the non-menthol flavored cigarettes. The insinuation of only menthol flavored cigarettes increasing nicotine dependence is a confounding factor, not the cause. The authors of the study strongly suggest more policy discipline (restriction) in regards to menthol flavored cigarettes to curtail teen smoking.