Background: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate tobacco product constituents, including menthol, if the scientific evidence indicates harm. Few studies, however, have evaluated the health effects of menthol cigarette use.
Objective: To investigate associations of cigarette smoking and menthol cigarette use with all-cause, cancer and cardiovascular risk in U.S. adults.
Methods: We studied 10,289 adults ≥ 20 years of age who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999-2004 and were followed through December 2006. We also identified studies comparing risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer for menthol and nonmenthol cigarette smokers and estimates were pooled using random-effects models.
Results: Fifty-five percent of participants were never smokers compared to 23%, 17% and 5% of former, current nonmenthol and current menthol cigarette smokers, respectively. The adjusted hazard ratios (95% CI) for former, current nonmenthol and current menthol cigarette smokers compared to never smokers were 1.24 (0.96, 1.62), 2.40 (1.56, 3.71) and 2.07 (1.20, 3.58), respectively, for all-cause mortality; 0.92 (0.62, 1.37), 2.10 (1.02, 4.31) and 3.48 (1.52, 7.99) for cardiovascular mortality; and 1.91 (1.21, 3.00), 3.82 (2.19, 6.68) and 2.03 (1.00, 4.13) for cancer mortality. Using data from 3 studies of all-cause mortality, 5 of cardiovascular disease and 13 of cancer, the pooled relative risks (95% CI) comparing menthol cigarette smokers to nonmenthol cigarette smokers was 0.94 (0.85, 1.05) for all-cause mortality, 1.28 (0.91, 1.80) for cardiovascular disease and 0.84 (0.76, 0.92) for any cancer.
Conclusions: In a representative sample of U.S. adults, menthol cigarette smoking was associated with increased all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality with no differences compared to nonmenthol cigarettes. In the systematic review, menthol cigarette use was associated with inverse risk of cancer compared to nonmenthol cigarette use with some evidence of an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.