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Model Estimates Harm Attributed to Menthol Cigarettes

FRIDAY, Feb. 26, 2021 -- Menthol cigarettes have slowed the decline in smoking prevalence in the United States and have been responsible for 10.1 million extra smokers during 1980 to 2018, according to a study published online Feb. 25 in Tobacco Control.

Thuy T.T. Le, Ph.D., and David Mendez, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, estimated the excess smoking prevalence, smoking initiation, and mortality that can be attributed to menthol cigarettes in the United States from 1980 to 2018. Overall U.S. adult smoking prevalence and associated mortality were reproduced using a well-established simulation model for 1980 to 2018; the model was rerun assuming that menthol cigarettes were not present on the market during the same period, then the two scenarios were compared.

The researchers found that menthol cigarettes were responsible for slowing the decline in smoking prevalence from 1980 to 2018 by 2.6 percent (13.7 to 11.1 percent in 2018). During the study period, menthol cigarettes were responsible for 10.1 million extra smokers, 3 million life years lost, and 378,000 premature deaths.

"As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed interest in the evaluation of a potential menthol flavor ban on some or all tobacco products, our findings can serve to illustrate to the agency the magnitude of the public health problem directly attributable to retaining menthol," the authors write.

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