Introduction: Menthol is the only characterizing flavor in cigarettes that was not banned as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This longitudinal study explores the role of menthol in smoking initiation and progression. Purpose (a) to examine young adult patterns of menthol cigarette use including switching between menthol and non-menthol and (b) to describe associations between these patterns of menthol use and cessation related intentions and behaviors. Additional data on the role of menthol in cigarettes on smoking uptake and maintenance is needed to inform proposed policy making at the local, state, and national levels.
Methods: Using 3 time points from a longitudinal national sample of young adults aged 18-34 years (N = 267 smokers), patterns of menthol use over 1 year were defined among smokers as: (a) remained menthol smoker; (b) remained non-menthol smoker; (c) switched from menthol to non-menthol; and (d) switched from non-menthol to menthol. Associations were assessed between current menthol cigarette use and cessation intentions and behaviors.
Results: Significant predictors of current menthol cigarette use at 1 year included initiation with menthol (OR = 8.26), Black race (OR = 23.60), and higher scores on the Allen menthol taste subscale (OR = 1.53). Menthol smokers were more likely to report intention to quit but no differences existed between menthol and non-menthol users in ever making a quit attempt.
Conclusions: Most young adults stay with the product that they start smoking with. Menthol smokers were interested in quitting, but less interested in next 30-day action than non-menthol smokers.
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