In a recent NIDA-supported study, Latino and African-American smokers of menthol cigarettes benefited less from a 1-month smoking cessation program than did smokers of nonmenthol cigarettes. During the month following the treatment, only 23 percent of Latinos and 30 percent of African-Americans who smoked menthol cigarettes achieved a weeklong period of abstinence, compared with roughly half of the nonmenthol smokers in each group. Caucasian participants showed no gap in abstinence rates between smokers of menthol and of nonmenthol cigarettes. Study leaders Drs. Kunal K. Gandhi and Jill M. Williams at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey also found that in each ethnic group, menthol's negative impact on quitting success was most pronounced among participants of low socioeconomic status. The researchers hypothesized that smokers who can afford only limited cigarette purchases may prefer menthol cigarettes because menthol's soothing effects on the throat enable them to puff more deeply or frequently and thus extract more nicotine from each cigarette. In earlier work, the New Jersey group had shown that smokers of menthol cigarettes absorb higher levels of nicotine than smokers of nonmenthol brands, which may increase the severity of addiction and the difficulty of quitting. Of the 1,688 participants in the recent study, 46 percent smoked menthol cigarettes, including 81 percent of African-Americans, 65 percent of Latinos, and 32 percent of Caucasians.
International Journal of Clinical Practice 63(3):360–367, 2009. [Abstract]