Study casts doubt on impact of menthol flavored tobacco ban | Journalist VUMC

by Tom Wilmon

According to a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center published April 21 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The ban aims to address a health disparity, as a significantly higher percentage of African Americans smoke menthol cigarettes than whites, and African American men have a higher incidence of lung and prostate cancer. death rate from the disease. The FDA plans to release proposed rules this spring that would ban menthol cigarettes, according to a Jan. 27 press release from the agency. Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, noted in the release that nearly 85% of all non-Hispanic black smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 30% of non-Hispanic white smokers. He also said that menthol-flavored cigarettes can be more addictive than menthol-free cigarettes and harder to quit.

However, the Vanderbilt researchers’ study found similar quit rates among menthol and non-menthol smokers overall and no statistically significant difference between white and African American participants. The data comes from surveys of participants in the Southern Community Cohort Study, with two-thirds of participants being African American. The study followed 16,425 smokers who participated in the study between 2002 and 2009 and completed a follow-up survey between 2008-2012, 2012-2015 and 2015-2017. The average annual quit rate for these surveys was 4.3% for menthol smokers and 4.5% for non-menthol smokers.

Previous research by this Vanderbilt research group has shown that non-menthol smokers are at a higher risk of lung cancer. They also noted a study in Canada, which banned menthol-flavored cigarettes, which found that most menthol smokers tend to switch to menthol-free brands rather than quitting.

“If the existing epidemiological data showing a lower risk of lung cancer in menthol smokers than in non-menthol smokers generally holds, then in the long term, if high percentages of menthol smokers switch to non-menthol, the ban could have the unintended consequence of a net increase rather than decrease in risk, at least for lung cancer,” the researchers said in the study.

More than 9,000 African-American menthol smokers were included in the Vanderbilt researchers’ analyses.

“In this large-scale follow-up study, we could not confirm the FDA report that menthols are harder to quit, at least in the population we followed. This finding, when combined the possibility that menthols may be associated with a lower risk of lung cancer and the potential social consequences of banning a product used preferentially by blacks, suggests caution in implementing a ban” , said the study’s corresponding author, William Blot, PhD, research professor emeritus of medicine in the VUMC’s division of epidemiology.

The other study authors are Heather Munro, MS, Martha Shrubsole, PhD, Wei Zheng, MD, PhD, and Wanqing Wen, MD.

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