Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Menthol-flavored cigarettes may lead to increased smoking among teens, study finds

“The ‘cooling’ sensation of menthol masks the harshness of tobacco which can make cigarettes more palatable to youth.”
The Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

Story at a glance


  • A study published Monday looked at 1,096 cigarette smokers aged 12-17 between 2013 and 2019 and compared use of menthol-flavored cigarettes to nonmenthol cigarettes.

  • Researchers found that teen consumption of menthol cigarettes was associated with nearly three additional days of smoking over a 30-day period, a 38 percent higher risk of becoming a frequent smoker and an 8 percent higher nicotine dependency.

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April proposed a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and the agency is taking public comments on the matter through July 5 before making a final decision.

As the Biden administration takes steps to ban the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes in the U.S. a new study suggests the type of cigarette may lead to increased smoking frequency and nicotine dependence among teens. 

A study published Monday in JAMA Network Open looked at 1,096 cigarette smokers aged 12-17 between 2013 and 2019 and compared use of menthol-flavored cigarettes to nonmenthol cigarettes. 

Researchers from the University of California San Diego found that teen consumption of menthol cigarettes was associated with nearly three additional days of smoking over a 30-day period, a 38 percent higher risk of becoming a frequent smoker and an 8 percent higher nicotine dependency. 

Teen smokers who switched from menthol cigarettes to unflavored cigarettes, however, smoked nearly four fewer days over a 30-day period, had a 47 percent lower risk of becoming a frequent smoker and had a 3 percent lower nicotine dependency. 


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“The ‘cooling’ sensation of menthol masks the harshness of tobacco which can make cigarettes more palatable to youth. Additionally, this cooling sensation can allow smoke to be inhaled deeper and held for longer, which can result in a greater absorption of nicotine per puff,” Eric Leas, assistant professor at UC San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science and the study’s lead author, said in a statement

“This may accelerate physical dependence to nicotine leading youth to smoke more often,” Leas said. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April proposed a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and the agency is taking public comments on the matter through July 5 before making a final decision on the regulations. 

Proponents of the ban say it will save lives by lowering smoking rates across the board as menthol cigarettes make up more than one-third of the cigarette market in the U.S. Some researchers also argue the ban will result in better health equity in Black communities, where menthol cigarettes have been heavily marketed by tobacco companies. 

Some 85 percent of African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes, compared to 29 percent of white smokers. 


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