PARSIPPANY, NJ -- A survey conducted this month, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, uncovers the perceptions and habits of menthol cigarette smokers, particularly among African Americans, who disproportionately smoke menthols over any other group. The survey shows that menthol smokers feel "twice-addicted" – both to the menthol and to the tobacco – and most are attracted by the taste and feel of menthol cigarettes. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of menthol smokers believe that menthol makes it easier for them to inhale, when almost 40 percent say that menthol flavoring is the only reason they smoke.
Additionally, if the FDA were to ban menthol cigarettes, four out of five menthol smokers (82 percent) say they are likely to try quitting.
"Almost all menthol smokers in the survey reported they want to quit, but were less likely to have tried quitting than regular smokers. They are also less likely to have tried using treatment," said Cedric Bright*, M.D., president-elect of the National Medical Association and associate professor of medicine in the Departments of Medicine and Community and Family Medicine at Duke University Medical Center. "With the high interest in quitting among these smokers, more needs to be done to educate smokers about accessible resources, such as counseling and nicotine replacement therapy, which are proven methods for improving success rates."
According to data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 82 percent of African-Americans choose menthol cigarettes, versus just one-quarter of adult smokers of other races. The survey shows, one-quarter of African-American menthol respondents have not tried treatment such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) because they don't know enough about it, or they think they can quit cold turkey, or without treatment. In reality, smokers who try to quit cold turkey result in less than a five percent chance at success. Using counseling, along with treatment such as NRT, can double a smoker's chances of successfully quitting.
Other research shows menthol smokers smoke fewer cigarettes per day than those who smoke regular cigarettes. However, they may be inhaling as much if not greater nicotine levels creating a stronger addiction. Still, it's not the number of cigarettes smoked per day that determines what level of treatment a smoker should choose. Menthol smokers who plan to quit should be aware of their smoking behaviors when choosing the right NRT dosage – such as when they smoke their first cigarette of the day.
A new analysis, presented last month at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, demonstrated that smokers choosing an NRT product should select their dose according to their time to first cigarette (TTFC) compared to the number of cigarettes they smoke per day.(6) The study showed higher quit rates for those smokers who used the TTFC method to determine the strength of medication needed, showing that it is essential to choose the right dosage based on a smoker's level of addiction to quit successfully.