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Teens Smoke More Thanks to Menthol Cigarettes

First Posted: Jun 20, 2014 02:40 PM EDT

The first study to link menthol cigarettes to nicotine addiction among teenagers in Canada authored by researchers from the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo was published on Friday.

The researchers used a nationally representative sample of 4,736 Canadian high school students in grades 9-12 from the 2010-2011 Canadian Youth Smoking Survey. They used a linear regression to examine associations between smoking intensity and menthol smoking and used a logistic regression to analyze whether menthol smoking increased one's likelihood to continue smoking.

Almost one in ten Canadian high school students in grades 10-12 are cigarette smokers and 32% of high school smokers use menthols. These findings are troubling because menthols have been found to be more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes, and the majority of consistent adult smokers begin smoking during their adolescence.

"There is a growing concern that the high popularity of menthol cigarettes among youth may hinder the recent progress in preventing other young people from smoking because many of them may experiment with menthol rather than unflavoured brands," said Sunday Azagba, lead author of the study and a scientist at the Propel Centre, in this news release.

The study, "Smoking intensity and intent to continue smoking among menthol and non-menthol adolescent smokers in Canada," was published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control this month. High school students who prefer menthols smoke an average of 46 cigarettes per week compared to their non-menthol smoking counterparts. The researchers think it's imperative that the Canadian government work to issue a ban on menthol cigarettes, especially since the country already has a ban on flavored cigarettes, including little cigars and blunt wraps.

This past April, the European Union banned menthol cigarettes after the 28 countries adopted a new Tobacco Products Directive. Menthol, a substance naturally found in mint plants, is used in cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, smokeless tobacco products, and tobacco rolling papers. In the United States, 90% of the cigarettes marketed contain menthol.

It's possible that menthol cigarettes could be next to reach the forefront of the anti-smoking agenda, especially in the U.S. The government is working hard to regulate and ban the often flavorful electronic cigarettes because many studies found they do not help reduce one's cigarette smoking habit.

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