Menthol cigarettes have been a hot topic in health news as of late. It seems that the U.S. government is about to make a decision about whether or not to ban menthol in cigarettes. In Canada, cigarillos and flavored cigarettes are already banned. The controversy around menthols stems from the fact that smoking rates have increased, largely due to younger smokers who have taken up smoking the menthol-flavored cigarettes.
Weighing in on the debate are two recent studies conducted in the States: one from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, TN, and the other from the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research, School of Public Health.
For the first study, researchers reported that smokers of menthol cigarettes are no more likely to develop lung cancer than people who smoke regular cigarettes. For the study, the team analyzed data on people in 12 southern states. They compared 440 people with lung cancer to 2,213 others of the same race, age and sex who did not have the disease.
Among people smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day, the researchers found that menthol smokers were about 12 times more likely to have lung cancer than people who had never smoked. Non-menthol smokers were about 21 times more likely to have the disease.
The researchers concluded by voicing this opinion:
cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of premature death in the United States, but emphasis on reduction of menthol relative to other cigarettes may distract from the ultimate preventive message that smoking any cigarettes is bad for your health.
Now for the second study. Researchers at the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research set out to discover whether menthol cigarette smokers are less likely to quit than non-menthol smokers.
They conducted a cross-sectional analysis of previous tobacco use surveys. They found that smoking menthol cigarettes is associated with decreased cessation and this association is more pronounced among black and Puerto Rican smokers. The researchers concluded that these findings support the recent calls to ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes.
The debate continues about whether or not to ban menthol in cigarettes in the U.S. This health e-letter isn’t intended as a validation of one decision over another. However, in the meantime, if you are a smoker, here are six tips to help you kick the habit no matter what you smoke:
1. Pick a quit day. Don’t wait for the perfect day — just choose one. Give yourself a deadline of two weeks maximum for choosing the day.
2. List your reasons for quitting.
3. Write down some things you can do instead of smoking. It may sound simple, but a healthy distraction at the right time can keep you from lighting up.
4. Tell your friends and family that you’re trying to quit and get support.
5. Start by making your house and car smoke-free.
6. Choose two or more smoking cessation methods. Get your doctor’s advice about available programs.