Background African Americans have higher tobacco-related morbidity and mortality and are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than their white counterparts. This study examined differences between African American menthol and non-menthol smokers in smoking characteristics and cessation.
Methods The study sample consisted of 600 African American smokers enrolled in a clinical trial that assessed the efficacy of sustained-release bupropion for smoking cessation. Menthol (n = 471) and non-menthol (n = 129) smokers were compared on smoking-related characteristics and abstinence rates at 6 weeks and 6 months.
Results Menthol smokers were younger (41.2 versus 52.9 years), more likely to be female (73.7% versus 56.6%) and more likely to smoke their first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up (81.7% versus 69.8%) compared to non-menthol smokers (all P < 0.01). Cigarette taste (50% versus 40%, P = 0.054) was rated non-significantly higher by menthol smokers. Seven-day point-prevalence abstinence from smoking at 6 weeks were 28% and 42% (P = 0.006) and at 6 months were 21% and 27% (P = 0.21) for menthol and non-menthol smokers, respectively. At 6 weeks follow-up, stepwise logistic regression revealed that among those younger than 50 years, non-menthol smokers were more likely to quit smoking (odds ratio = 2.0; 95% CI = 1.03–3.95) as were those who received bupropion (odds ratio = 2.12; 95% CI = 1.32–3.39).
Conclusion African American menthol smokers had lower smoking cessation rates after 6 weeks of treatment with bupropion-SR, thereby putting menthol smokers at greater risk from the health effects of smoking. Lower overall cessation rates among African Americans menthol smokers may partially explain ethnic differences in smoking-related disease risks.