Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Feds: Menthol Cigarettes May Be Harder to Quit

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Pointing to what it calls "critical public health questions," the federal government is moving closer to regulating menthol cigarettes.

A new report by the United States Food and Drug Administration has found that it may be more difficult to give up than the regular variety. Regulators at the FDA found that about 30 percent of adult smokers and about 40 percent of young smokers use menthol cigarettes, which contain a flavor additive that may help to "smooth" the effects of smoke—and make it harder for menthol users to quit.

"Today I cannot tell you that menthol cigarettes are more addictive," said research author Nadine I. Kabbani of George Mason University. "But I can tell you that they're increasingly found to have biological and biophysical properties that go beyond flavor."

The FDA has launched three menthol-related studies, including one that will attempt to determine if genetic differences in taste may explain why menthols are more popular among certain ethnic groups.

75 percent of African-American smokers and about 30 percent of Latino smokers prefer them, according to research, as opposed to 20 percent of non-Latino whites—raising concerns among African-American interest groups that a ban could merely create an unregulated, underground market.

Menthol cigarette usage has increased from 34 percent of U.S. smokers in 2008 to 37.5 percent in 2011, according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study.

Shares of tobacco company stocks dipped July 23 after the FDA report was released on the heels of industry fears that stricter regulations on menthol cigarettes could be imminent—although none have been mandated at this time.

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