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NAQC Newsroom: Research

Differences in Subjective Experiences to First Use of Menthol and Non-Menthol Cigarettes in a Nation

Thursday, September 14, 2017  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Joanne D’Silva, Amy M Cohn, Amanda L Johnson, Andrea C Villanti.
Differences in Subjective Experiences to First Use of Menthol and Non-Menthol Cigarettes in a National Sample of Young Adult Cigarette Smokers.
Nicotine & Tobacco Research, , ntx181,
Menthol has been hypothesized to ease the harshness of cigarette smoke. Thus, sensory experiences at first cigarette use may be one mechanism by which menthol facilitates progression to regular smoking. This study examined differences in subjective experiences to first use of a menthol vs. non-menthol cigarette among new young adult smokers. Data were drawn from Waves 5-8 of the Truth Initiative Young Adult Cohort Study, a national sample of 18-34 year olds assessed every six months. Analyses included a subset of young adult current smokers (n=251) who initiated smoking in the past six months. Subjective responses to first cigarette use were assessed across menthol and non-menthol initiators in bivariate analyses and adjusted models controlling for smoking correlates. Fifty-two percent of new young adult smokers used a menthol cigarette at first use. First use of a menthol cigarette was higher in those aged 18-24 (vs. 25-34). Most Black smokers (93.1%) were menthol initiators compared to 43.9% of White smokers. More than half of menthol and non-menthol initiates felt relaxed or calm, dizzy, lightheaded, liking the taste and a rush or buzz at first use. Menthol initiators were less likely in bivariate and multivariable analyses to experience feeling nauseated at first use (AOR=0.45; p=.020) compared to non-menthol initiators. While few differences were found between menthol and non-menthol initiators in their subjective experiences, fewer menthol initiates felt nauseated at first cigarette use. Future research needs to identify additional mechanisms linking menthol initiation to smoking progression. Menthol initiators were more likely to be younger (18-24 vs. 25-34) and Black (vs. White) compared to non-menthol initiators. Our finding that menthol initiators were less likely to feel nauseated at first cigarette use compared to non-menthol initiators, suggests that menthol may reduce aversion to early cigarette use among young smokers and thus has the potential to facilitate continued experimentation. Interventions and policy approaches to reduce tobacco use initiation and progression are urgently needed in young people.

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