Introduction: Menthol cigarette smoking is more prevalent among Blacks than among other groups in the United States. This study examined associations between demographic, psychological, attitudinal, social, and cultural factors and menthol smoking among Black adults.
Methods: This study recruited 720 Black smokers from community intercept locations throughout Los Angeles County, California, and surveyed them by telephone.
Results: Fifty-seven percent of respondents were menthol-only smokers, 15% were regular-only smokers, and 28% smoked both menthols and regular cigarettes (combined smokers). In bivariate models, menthol-only and combined smokers had stronger beliefs in the medicinal effects of menthols relative to regular-only smokers. Menthol-only smokers held stronger beliefs, relative to regular-only smokers, that menthols were less harmful than regular cigarettes. Menthol-only smokers preferred the menthol taste/sensation more than combined smokers, who preferred the menthol taste/sensation more than regular-only smokers. Menthol-only and combined smokers had more menthol smokers in their current social networks compared with regular-only smokers. In multivariate analyses, preference for menthol taste/sensation, belief in medicinal effects of menthols, and menthol smokers in current social network differentiated menthol-only and combined smokers from regular-only smokers, controlling for confounding variables. Correlates of menthol smoking varied across genders and age groups.
Discussion: Health education efforts are needed to dispel the myth that menthol cigarettes are more medicinal and less harmful than regular cigarettes. Prevention and cessation efforts in Black communities can be tailored to reflect predictors of menthol smoking to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. In the era of Food and Drug Administration regulation of cigarettes, research is needed to prevent health disparities associated with menthol cigarette smoking.