Parisippany, N.J. — 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.1 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.1 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.1
Additionally, if the FDA were to ban menthol cigarettes, four out of five menthol smokers (82 percent) say they are likely to try quitting.1
"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, MD, 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.2 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.1 In reality, smokers who try to quit cold turkey result in less than a five percent chance at success.3 Using counseling, along with treatment such as NRT, can double a smoker's chances of successfully quitting.4
Other research shows menthol smokers smoke fewer cigarettes per day than those who smoke regular cigarettes.5 However, they may be inhaling as much if not greater nicotine levels creating a stronger addiction.6 Still, it's not the number of cigarettes smoked per day that determines what level of treatment a smoker should choose.6 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.6
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.6
NRT products have helped millions of people around the world quit smoking and, as a result, have significantly reduced their exposure to the risks of cancer and other smoking-related diseases.7 They are recommended as first-line treatments for smoking addiction in the U.S. and can reliably increase long-term smoking abstinence rates.4 Smokers interested in quitting can access free tools and resources at Nicorette.com.
Nicotine replacement therapy, such as Nicorette gum and lozenge, and NicoDermCQ patch, offers a step-down therapy weaning a smoker off of nicotine gradually.4 It is a first-line treatment for smoking cessation, and can double a smoker's chances of quitting over cold turkey.4 NRT has safely and effectively helped millions of people around the world quit smoking over the past 20 years, and, as a result, have significantly reduced their exposure to the risks of cancer and other smoking-related diseases.7
The online survey was conducted among 616 adult smokers in the United States, including 308 menthol cigarette smokers and 308 regular (non-menthol) cigarette smokers. The sample included 252 African American smokers (a deliberate oversample), including 152 menthol smokers, and 100 regular smokers. For analysis, sample data were statistically weighted by race, gender, income, and menthol versus non-menthol smoking to accurately reflect the current population of adult smokers on each of these dimensions.
Weighting was based on data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), conducted by United States Department of Health and Human Services. Data were collected between March 2 and March 10, 2011. Survey design, data collection, and analysis were done by Versta Research and sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.
- Survey of 616 smokers. Versta Research. March 2011.
- United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009 [Computer file]. ICPSR29621-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2010-11-16. doi:10.3886/ICPSR29621
- American Cancer Society "Cigarette Smoking" Available at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_2X_Cigarette_Smoking.asp?sitearea=PED
- Fiore MC, Jaen CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008.
- Foulds J, Hooper MW, Pletcher MJ, Okuyemi KS. Do smokers of menthol cigarettes find it harder to quit smoking? Nicotine Tob Res. 2010 Dec;12 Suppl 2:S102-9.
- Shiffman, et. al. Assigning dose of nicotine gum by time to first cigarette, rather than cigarette consumption. SRNT 2011 presentation.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of FDA-approved pharmacologic treatments for tobacco dependence.