Statement of Matthew L. Myers
President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
WASHINGTON, Menthol cigarettes are much more likely to be used by youth and young adult smokers than older smokers and are undermining efforts to reduce smoking in the United States, according to a new study published today in the journal Tobacco Control . The study also found that menthol smoking rates have increased among young adults and remained constant among youth and older adults, while non-menthol smoking has decreased among all three groups.
These findings indicate that “the presence of menthol cigarettes in the marketplace is slowing progress in the reduction of population smoking prevalence,” the study concludes.
This study adds to the powerful scientific evidence that menthol cigarettes have a profound adverse impact on public health in the United States, resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use. It underscores why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must act quickly to ban menthol cigarettes.
In July, the FDA began a regulatory process by inviting public comment to inform its decisions regarding menthol cigarettes. There is more than adequate scientific evidence for the FDA to quickly develop a formal rule banning menthol cigarettes.
The new study adds to the evidence contained in the FDA’s 153-page report on the health impact of menthol cigarettes released in July. That report found that menthol cigarettes lead to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking. “These findings, combined with the evidence indicating that menthol’s cooling and anesthetic properties can reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and the evidence indicating that menthol cigarettes are marketed as a smoother alternative to nonmenthol cigarettes, make it likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes,” the FDA’s report concluded.
The FDA’s report independently affirmed the findings of the agency’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which in March 2011 issued a report that concluded, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”
The new study estimated menthol and non-menthol cigarette use during 2004-2010 using data from the federal government’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Its key findings include:
The study was led by Gary Giovino, PhD, professor and chair of the University at Buffalo Department of Community Health and Health Behaviors. It was funded by Legacy, (http://www.legacyforhealth.org/), a leading public health non-profit whose primary mission is to reduce tobacco use.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. The new study makes it even more clear that banning menthol cigarettes is a critical step in reducing tobacco’s devastating toll on our nation.
The University at Buffalo press release on the study can be read at http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2013/08/033.html.