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Summary

Background:  Lower rates of smoking cessation and higher rates of lung cancer in African American (AA) smokers may be linked to their preference for mentholated cigarettes.

Aim:  This study assessed the relationship between menthol smoking, race/ethnicity and smoking cessation among a diverse cohort of 1688 patients attending a specialist smoking cessation service.

Results:  46% of the patients smoked mentholated cigarettes, but significantly more AA (81%) and Latino (66%) patients than Whites (32%) smoked menthols. AA and Latino menthol smokers smoked significantly fewer cigarettes per day (CPD) than non-menthol smokers (15.7 vs. 20.3, for AA, and 17.0 vs. 22.1, for Latinos), with no differences among White menthol and non-menthol smokers. At 4-week follow up, AA, Latino and White non-menthol smokers had similar quit rates (54%, 50% and 50% respectively). In contrast, among menthol smokers, AAs and Latinos had lower quit rates (30% and 23% respectively) compared with Whites (43%, p < 0.001). AA and Latino menthol smokers had significantly lower odds of quitting [odds ratio (OR) = 0.34; 95% CI = 0.17, 0.69 for AA, and OR = 0.32; 95% CI = 0.16, 0.62 for Latinos] than their non-menthol counterparts. At 6-month follow up, a similar trend was observed for the race/ethnicity subgroups, with AA menthol smokers having half the odds of being abstinent compared with AA non-menthol smokers (OR = 0.48; 95% CI = 0.25, 0.9).

Conclusions:  Despite smoking fewer CPD, AA and Latino menthol smokers experience reduced success in quitting as compared with non-menthol smokers within the same ethnic/racial groups.