Vintage Cigarette Lighter - Oasis Filter Cigarettes With Menthol Mist, By Continental, Made in Japan by Joe Haupt is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Banning menthol cigarettes has long been on the mind of federal health officials, with the Food and Drug Administration slowly gaining ground on totally prohibiting the products. While they claim these efforts are aimed to target products they believe to encourage smoking, government attempts at legislation have been met with considerable pushback. 

A new study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute sought to investigate the real effects of menthol cigarettes. Specifically, the likelihood of menthol smokers to quit smoking compared to those who smoke unflavored cigarettes. Over 16,000 smokers were analyzed, mostly low-income African American given that demographic overwhelmingly consumes menthol-flavored tobacco products. Over a seven-year period participants would be noted for the rate at which they quit smoking with and without relapsing.  

Key Findings 

  • Mentholated and non-mentholated smokers quit at nearly the same rate 
  • Menthol cigarette quitters relapse at a slightly higher rate 
  • There is no notable difference in the desire to quit among the two groups 

JNCI found that quit rates among menthol and non-menthol smokers are nearly identical at 4.3% and 4.5% respectively. Relapse rates were, however, higher among menthol users (8.4% to 7.1%). Though relapsed smokers would frequently try to quit more than once, no statistically significant difference between mentholated and normal cigarette users could be found.  

Data suggests that successful quit rates among menthol and non-menthol smokers are nearly the same. The conclusion reached here is that a menthol ban would ultimately fail in its attempts to lower smoking rates as rather than giving up the habit entirely menthol smokers would instead merely switch to unflavored cigarettes. Additionally, the study shows that the claim that mentholated cigarettes discourage people from quitting is simply false.