Differential trends in cigarette smoking in the USA:
is menthol slowing progress?
Gary A Giovino,
Andrea C Villanti,
Paul D Mowery,
Raymond S Niaura,
Donna M Vallone,
David B Abrams
▸ Additional material is
published online only. To view
please visit the journal online
For numbered afﬁliations see
end of article.
Dr Gary A Giovino, Department
of Community Health and
Health Behavior, School of
Public Health and Health
Professions, University at
Buffalo, The State University of
New York, 311 Kimball Tower,
3435 Main Street, Buffalo,
New York 14214-8028, USA;
Received 24 May 2013
Accepted 8 August 2013
To cite: Giovino GA,
Villanti AC, Mowery PD,
et al. Tob Control Published
Online First: [please include
Day Month Year]
Introduction Mentholated cigarettes are at least as
dangerous to an individual’s health as non-mentholated
varieties. The addition of menthol to cigarettes reduces
perceived harshness of smoke, which can facilitate
initiation. Here, we examine correlates of menthol use,
national trends in smoking menthol and non-menthol
cigarettes, and brand preferences over time.
Methods We estimated menthol cigarette use during
2004–2010 using annual data on persons ≥12 years
old from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
We adjusted self-reported menthol status for selected
brands that were either exclusively menthol or non-
menthol, based on sales data. Data were weighted to
provide national estimates.
Results Among cigarette smokers, menthol cigarette
use was more common among 12–17 year olds (56.7%)
and 18–25 year olds (45.0%) than among older persons
(range 30.5% to 32.9%). In a multivariable analysis,
menthol use was associated with being younger, female
and of non-Caucasian race/ethnicity. Among all
adolescents, the percentage who smoked non-menthol
cigarettes decreased from 2004–2010, while menthol
smoking rates remained constant; among all young
adults, the percentage who smoked non-menthol
cigarettes also declined, while menthol smoking rates
increased. The use of Camel menthol and Marlboro
menthol increased among adolescent and young adult
smokers, particularly non-Hispanic Caucasians, during
the study period.
Conclusions Young people are heavy consumers
of mentholated cigarettes. Progress in reducing youth
smoking has likely been attenuated by the sale and
marketing of mentholated cigarettes, including emerging
varieties of established youth brands. This study should
inform the Food and Drug Administration regarding the
potential public health impact of a menthol ban.
Smokers of mentholated cigarettes are just as likely
to experience premature morbidity and mortality as
smokers of non-mentholated varieties,
though menthol smokers smoke fewer cigarettes
per day than do smokers of non-mentholated
The cooling properties and ﬂavour of
menthol make these cigarettes less harsh to smoke,
which can facilitate the transition from experimen-
tation to more regular use and addiction.
Consistent with evidence that young smokers
prefer ﬂavoured cigarettes,
studies of adolescent
and adult smokers ﬁnd the highest prevalences of
menthol cigarette use among 12–17-year-old
smokers compared to older smokers and among
middle school smokers when compared with high
A recent National Survey on
Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report on menthol
smoking showed that trends in past month menthol
use increased from 13.4% in 2004 to 15.9% in
2010 among people aged 18–25 years old, and
remained relatively stable from 2004–2010 among
those aged 12–17 years and 26 years and older.
Menthol cigarette use appears to be more common
among more recent initiates, suggesting a role as a
starter product for youth.
Menthol may facili-
tate nicotine addiction. Several studies report
increased nicotine dependence among adolescent
menthol smokers compared to non-menthol
Menthol has also been shown to
increase oral absorption of nicotine in an animal
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and
Tobacco Control Act
gives the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) authority to issue tobacco
product standards if deemed ‘appropriate for the
protection of public health’.
The Act required the
FDA to ban fruit, candy, or clove characterising ﬂa-
vourings in cigarettes in September 2009 to reduce
youth smoking initiation.
The Act did not ban
menthol ﬂavourings at that time. Rather, it directed
the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientiﬁc Advisory
Committee (TPSAC) to review the scientiﬁc evi-
dence on the impact of the use of menthol in cigar-
ettes on the public health, including such use
among children, African–Americans, Hispanics and
other racial and ethnic minorities. TPSAC con-
cluded in its July 2011 report that ‘removal of
menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would
beneﬁt public health in the USA’.
clusions were based in part on analyses of 2004–
2008 NSDUH data.
In this study, we update and
extend these analyses with 2009 and 2010 NSDUH
data to examine correlates of menthol use, trends
in the prevalence of smoking menthol and non-
menthol cigarettes in the USA, and changes in pref-
erence for various mentholated brands across sub-
groups and with increased precision.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health
The NSDUH is a nationally representative survey
that assesses tobacco, alcohol and drug use beha-
viours in the US civilian, non-institutionalised popu-
lation that is ≥12 years old. It is administered to a
sample of the US population living in households.
Respondents include residents of non-institutional
group quarters, such as college students living in
dormitories, civilians residing on military bases, and
persons living in group homes, shelters and rooming
houses. The NSDUH is sponsored by the Substance
Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159 1
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Cross-sectional surveys administered annually from 2004 to
2010 were used to estimate the prevalence of menthol use
among current smokers and among the entire population.
NSDUH respondents are selected using a multistage probability
sample. Most interviews are conducted in the respondents’
homes by trained interviewers. To decrease misclassiﬁcation bias,
drug use questions—including tobacco questions—are adminis-
tered by audio computer-assisted self-interviews (A-CASI). The
overall response rate for the 2004–2010 individual survey years
ranged from 66.1% to 70.0%. The NSDUH added a new ques-
tion on menthol use in 2004.
Current cigarette smoking in the NSDUH was assessed by
asking respondents who had ever smoked whether they had
smoked part or all of a cigarette in the previous 30 days. Those
who responded afﬁrmatively were subsequently asked to report
the brand of cigarettes they smoked most often. They were able
to select and verify their usual brand from 2 lists with a total of
57 (60 in 2004) brand names that were presented onscreen.
Once respondents selected and veriﬁed one of the brands on the
screen, they were subsequently asked, ‘Were the <CIGFILL>
cigarettes you smoked during the past 30 days menthol?’ (Note:
‘<CIGFILL>’ was replaced by the computer programme with
the name of the brand the respondent had previously reported
and veriﬁed as having smoked most often.) Approximately 95%
of smokers selected a brand from the lists offered. The remain-
ing 5% were asked, ‘Were the cigarettes you smoked during the
past 30 days menthol?’
Prior research has demonstrated under-reporting of menthol
status of exclusively menthol brands (eg, Newport, Salem), par-
ticularly among adolescent smokers.
This has been raised
as a particular concern for estimates of menthol use among
young Black smokers.
Because of concerns about misclassiﬁca-
tion, especially among adolescents (see online supplementary
tables S1 and S2), we used sales data
to classify major brands
for which at least 99% of sales were menthol or non-menthol.
Sales data were incorporated for 2008 grocery, drug and mer-
chandise stores and for 2009 and 2010 for those types of stores
and convenience stores, as well (see supplementary Appendix).
Incorporating a method of Hersey and colleagues,
if a respond-
ent reported usually smoking Newport and also reported on the
menthol question that the usual brand was non-menthol, the
respondent’s response to the menthol variable question was
recoded as menthol. A similar adjustment was made for exclu-
sively non-mentholated brands. All results reported here use this
adjustment process. We note that the overall prevalence trends
observed here were also observed with unadjusted data.
We used SAS V.9.2 for all analyses. The SAS survey procedures
took into account NSDUH’s complex survey design. Survey
weights were used to adjust for different probabilities of selec-
tion and for non-response, producing estimates representative of
the US population. Due to small cell sizes, we restricted some of
our analyses to the three largest racial/ethnic groups:
non-Hispanic Caucasian, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic.
We used data on 40 841 smokers interviewed in 2008–2010
who were aged 12 years and older to assess patterns of menthol
use among smokers by age, gender, race/ethnicity, household
income and the number of days smoked during the previous
30 days. Differences in point estimates were assessed using non-
overlapping CIs. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to
assess patterns of use in a multivariable model.
We then used data on 389 698 respondents aged 12 years and
older to estimate the prevalence of smoking menthol and non-
menthol cigarettes in the US population. These estimates were
made by age (12–17, 18–25, 26 years and older) and in each
age group by gender and race/ethnicity. The signiﬁcance of the
time trends was tested using a t test of the slope coefﬁcients.
This was performed separately for menthol and non-menthol
trend lines. The difference between menthol and non-menthol
time trends was estimated by including an interaction term in
the model. The interaction term enabled us to estimate separate
slopes for menthol and non-menthol trend lines. We tested the
signiﬁcance of the interaction coefﬁcient using a t test of the
We also compared data on 43 616 smokers surveyed during
2004–2006 with those from the 40 841 smokers surveyed
during 2008–2010 to assess changes in menthol brand prefer-
ence. Our intention in this analysis was to contrast the 3 earliest
years of the study with the 3 latest years. Including data from
2007 would have resulted in an unbalanced analysis.
Differences in use of various brands over time were tested using
the z test of two independent binomial proportions.
A note on terminology
Below we refer to persons aged 12–17 years old as adolescents,
18–25 years old as young adults and 26 years and older as
adults. We refer to non-Hispanic Caucasian subjects as
Caucasians, non-Hispanic Black subjects as Blacks and
non-Hispanic Asian subjects as Asians.
Additional details on the methods used and results are pre-
sented in the online supplementary appendix.
Age differences in menthol cigarette use among current
Table 1 presents overall and age-speciﬁc data on the use of men-
tholated cigarettes among current smokers during 2008–2010 by
gender, race/ethnicity, household income and the number of days
smoked during the previous 30 days. Menthol use was most preva-
lent among adolescent smokers overall (56.7%, representing 1.2
million smokers) and consistently high across all subgroups exam-
ined. Prevalence of menthol use was next highest among young
adult smokers overall (45.0%, representing 5.2 million smokers)
and in most subcategories. Overall, lower menthol use rates were
observed among 26–34 year olds (34.7%), which were higher
than among 35–49 (30.5%) and 50+ (30.7%) year olds. Among
Blacks, a ceiling effect likely occurred, with menthol use rates of at
least 89.9% observed in each of the 12–49-year-old age categories.
More precise younger age categories were examined in a multi-
variable logistic regression analysis of correlates of menthol cig-
arette use among smokers (table 2). Controlling for gender,
race/ethnicity, household income and days smoked in the past
month, the odds of smoking mentholated brands were highest
in the youngest age groups (12–15 and 16–17) of smokers.
Females and racial/ethnic minority groups were more likely to
smoke mentholated varieties than were males and Caucasians,
respectively. Of particular note, Blacks had 25.18 times higher
odds (95% CI 20.28 to 31.26) of smoking menthol cigarettes
compared to Caucasians. No differences were seen across cat-
egories of household income and days smoked/month.
2 Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159
Table 1 Prevalence (%) of use of menthol cigarettes among past 30-day smokers, by age and gender, race/ethnicity, household income and the number of days smoked/month in the USA,
All ages 12–17 18–25 26–34 35–49 50+
Factor % 95% CI % 95% CI % 95% CI % 95% CI % 95% CI % 95% CI
Overall 35.23 34.19 to 36.27 56.71 54.62 to 58.80 45.01 43.80 to 46.22 34.74 32.87 to 36.62 30.50 29.13 to 31.87 30.74 28.27 to 33.22
Male 31.40 30.24 to 32.55 53.79 51.34 to 56.24 41.94 40.45 to 43.42 32.67 30.16 to 35.18 25.15 23.48 to 26.82 25.70 22.53 to 28.87
Female 39.65 38.11 to 41.19 59.87 57.15 to 62.58 48.95 47.36 to 50.53 37.42 34.90 to 39.94 36.46 34.40 to 38.52 35.87 32.51 to 39.23
Non-Hispanic Caucasian 25.70 24.71 to 26.69 51.30 48.84 to 53.77 36.39 35.12 to 37.66 23.58 21.96 to 25.20 20.05 18.58 to 21.53 22.63 20.53 to 24.73
Non-Hispanic Black 88.47 86.24 to 90.71 94.89 92.68 to 97.11 93.97 92.57 to 95.37 91.61 88.48 to 94.74 89.93 86.43 to 93.44 80.99 75.39 to 86.58
Non-Hispanic other 45.19 37.25 to 53.12 56.49 44.50 to 68.49 56.28 49.24 to 63.31 38.68 25.65 to 51.71 48.47 31.43 to 65.51 31.58 13.12 to 50.04
Non-Hispanic Asian 30.77 26.41 to 35.13 60.71 41.48 to 79.94 49.77 42.57 to 56.97 27.05 17.17 to 36.92 24.91 14.72 to 35.10 16.96 3.62 to 30.29
Non-Hispanic more than one race 42.16 34.57 to 49.75 59.39 49.71 to 69.07 52.81 46.09 to 59.53 30.86 23.03 to 38.69 48.16 37.89 to 58.43 33.75 14.87 to 52.63
Hispanic 38.06 35.70 to 40.43 58.18 52.20 to 64.15 47.33 44.50 to 50.16 40.45 35.38 to 45.52 31.86 26.40 to 37.32 26.82 18.23 to 35.40
Lower tertile 40.68 38.85 to 42.51 58.32 54.59 to 62.05 45.99 43.93 to 48.06 44.95 41.20 to 48.69 38.92 35.99 to 41.85 32.97 29.09 to 36.84
Middle tertile 35.81 34.17 to 37.46 58.02 54.23 to 61.81 45.05 43.28 to 46.83 35.55 32.45 to 38.66 30.37 28.14 to 32.60 32.44 28.47 to 36.41
Higher tertile 31.20 29.75 to 32.65 55.01 51.75 to 58.27 43.99 42.42 to 45.56 28.04 25.65 to 30.43 26.42 24.13 to 28.72 27.57 24.03 to 31.10
Number of days smoked per month
1–5 days 39.50 37.35 to 41.65 57.78 54.03 to 61.53 43.76 41.67 to 45.84 32.90 28.28 to 37.52 34.21 29.53 to 38.89 39.26 32.30 to 46.22
6–29 days 41.30 39.44 to 43.15 58.70 55.30 to 62.09 46.82 44.57 to 49.06 37.77 34.03 to 41.51 37.06 34.00 to 40.12 38.87 32.66 to 45.08
30 days 31.92 30.71 to 33.13 51.98 48.55 to 55.40 44.53 43.12 to 45.93 34.09 31.73 to 36.45 27.73 26.13 to 29.33 27.88 25.16 to 30.59
Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Self-reported menthol status was adjusted if necessary using retail checkout scanner data. Sample size=40 841.
Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159 3
Recent trends in the prevalence of smoking menthol and
non-menthol cigarettes in the USA
Figure 1 and table 3 and online supplementary table S3 show
the results of analyses that examined overall trends from 2004–
2010 in the prevalence of smoking menthol and non-menthol
cigarettes among adolescents, young adults and adults. Note
that the denominator here is all individuals in the relevant age
groups, not just cigarette smokers. Overall, 5.3% of adolescents
smoked mentholated cigarettes in 2004, compared to 4.5% in
2010; 6.0% smoked non-mentholated cigarettes in 2004, com-
pared to 3.4% in 2010. The slopes of the regression lines were
−0.08 (p=0.11) for menthol smoking and −0.47 ( p<0.001)
for non-menthol smoking. The slopes of these two lines were
signiﬁcantly different (p<0.001).
Among young adults, 14.0% smoked mentholated cigarettes
in 2004, compared to 16.3% in 2010; 25.7% smoked non-
mentholated cigarettes in 2004, compared to 17.3% in 2010.
The slopes of the regression lines were +0.45 (p=0.003) for
menthol smoking and −1.48 (p<0.001) for non-menthol.
These slopes were also signiﬁcantly different (p<0.001).
Among adults aged 26 and above, 7.0% smoked mentholated
cigarettes in 2004, compared to 7.4% in 2010; 17.0% smoked
non-mentholated cigarettes in 2004, compared to 15.3% in
2010. The slopes of the regression lines were +0.04 (p=0.46)
for menthol smoking and −0.28 ( p=0.0024) for non-menthol.
These slopes were signiﬁcantly different (p=0.0013).
The general pattern of more rapid decline of non-menthol
smoking relative to menthol smoking was consistently observed
among males, females and Caucasians (p=0.053 for adults) and
among young adult and adult Hispanics (table 3).
Trends in prevalence of various mentholated cigarette
brands by US cigarette smokers
Next, we compared preference for leading mentholated varieties
in 2004–2006 and 2008–2010 among smokers across age cat-
egories (see online supplementary ﬁgure S1 and table S4).
Preference for Camel menthol and Marlboro menthol cigarettes
increased during the study in all three age groups, but especially
among adolescents and young adults. Newport use increased
among young adults and adults; Salem use declined in all three
age groups. Overall, the number of users of Camel menthol,
Marlboro menthol and Newport increased during the study by
approximately 866 000, 886 000 and 580 000 smokers, respect-
ively (see online supplementary table S4). During 2008–2010,
1.0 million adolescents and 4.6 million young adults used
Camel menthol, Marlboro menthol, or Newport.
The prevalence of Camel menthol use increased signiﬁcantly
among Caucasians in all age groups, among adolescent Blacks,
and among Hispanic young adults and adults (ﬁgure 2 and see
online supplementary table S5). The prevalence of smoking
Marlboro menthol cigarettes increased among Caucasians in all
age groups and among Black and Hispanic young adults.
Prevalence of use of Kool and Salem declined in some age cat-
egories, and Newport use increased among adult Blacks.
The analyses in this report indicate that youth are heavy consu-
mers of mentholated cigarettes and that overall menthol cigar-
ette smoking has either remained constant or increased from
2004–2010 in all three age groups, while non-menthol smoking
has decreased. We also document increased use of Camel
Table 2 Multivariate logistic regression analysis of correlates of use of menthol cigarettes among past 30-day smokers in the USA, 2008–2010
Factor N Menthol, % AOR 95% CI p Value
12–15 1644 58.42 3.92 3.32 to 4.63 <0.0001
16–17 3251 55.82 3.62 3.25 to 4.03 <0.0001
18–21 10 095 48.37 2.61 2.34 to 2.90 <0.0001
22–25 10 172 41.58 1.85 1.69 to 2.03 <0.0001
26–34 5889 34.75 1.26 1.16 to 1.37 <0.0001
35+ 9755 30.61 Reference
Female 19 780 39.62 1.62 1.49 to 1.76 <0.0001
Male 21 026 31.40 Reference
Non-Hispanic Black 4337 88.46 25.18 20.28 to 31.26 <0.0001
Non-Hispanic Asian 787 30.76 1.35 1.10 to 1.66 0.004
Non-Hispanic more than one race 1546 42.00 2.06 1.51 to 2.80 <0.0001
Non-Hispanic other 1227 45.19 2.26 1.64 to 3.12 <0.0001
Hispanic 5137 38.09 1.81 1.62 to 2.02 <0.0001
Non-Hispanic Caucasian 27 772 25.70 Reference
Lower tertile 11 971 40.64 0.95 0.84 to 1.08 0.44
Middle tertile 15 253 35.81 1.02 0.92 to 1.12 0.77
Higher tertile 13 582 31.21 Reference
Number of days smoked/month
1–5 days 8487 39.50 1.01 0.91 to 1.13 0.82
6–29 days 10 427 41.30 1.02 0.92 to 1.12 0.73
30 days 21 892 31.92 Reference
Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2008–2010. Self-reported menthol status was adjusted if necessary using retail checkout scanner data. Sample size=40 806.
4 Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159
menthol and Marlboro menthol cigarettes, particularly among
young Caucasians and Hispanics. Camel menthol and Marlboro
menthol are emerging varieties of established youth brands.
Our ﬁndings address previous concerns regarding misclassiﬁca-
tion of menthol smoking status by adjusting self-reported
menthol status with Nielsen retail checkout scanner data.
After such adjustment, we observed that more than half (56.7%)
of adolescent smokers preferred menthol cigarettes. Detailed
ﬁndings are discussed below.
First, after controlling for confounders, younger age, even as
young as 12–15 years old, was a signiﬁcant correlate of menthol
cigarette use. The relationship between age and menthol use
Figure 1 Trends in the prevalence of cigarette smoking (%) by type of cigarette smoked and age in the USA, 2004–2010. Source: National Survey
on Drug Use and Health. Self-reported menthol status was adjusted if necessary using retail checkout scanner data. NB: Scales for y-axis are
different across age groups. Menthol cigarette use represented by solid blue line; non-menthol cigarette use by broken red line. Error bars represent
95% CIs. Differences in slopes for menthol and non-menthol cigarette use in adolescents (p<0.001), young adults ( p<0.001) and adults
(p=0.0013). Sample size= 389 698.
Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159 5
Table 3 Trends in the prevalence of cigarette smoking (%) by type of cigarette smoked and age, gender and race/ethnicity in the USA, 2004–
Type of cigarette
smoked/factor 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
p Value for difference
Menthol 5.3 4.8 4.8 4.9 4.6 5.0 4.5 −0.08 0.11 <0.001
Non-menthol 6.0 5.5 5.3 4.5 3.9 3.5 3.4 −0.47 <0.001
Menthol 4.6 4.3 4.3 4.8 4.4 4.8 4.4 0.00 0.95 <0.001
Non-menthol 6.2 5.7 5.4 4.9 4.0 3.9 3.8 −0.43 <0.001
Menthol 6.0 5.3 5.3 5.0 4.8 5.1 4.7 −0.18 0.01 <0.001
Non-menthol 5.8 5.2 5.1 4.2 3.8 3.0 3.0 −0.52 <0.001
Menthol 5.8 4.8 4.9 5.5 4.8 5.2 5.1 −0.02 0.79 <0.001
Non-menthol 8.1 7.5 7.2 6.3 5.2 5.0 4.2 −0.69 <0.001
Non Hispanic Black
Menthol 5.3 6.1 5.7 5.8 4.9 4.8 4.2 −0.23 0.04 0.11
Non-menthol 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.03 0.48
Menthol 3.7 4.3 4.2 3.1 3.8 4.6 3.8 −0.01 0.90 0.30
Non-menthol 4.4 3.4 3.5 2.8 3.1 2.2 3.4 −0.18 0.16
Menthol 14.0 13.7 14.1 14.2 14.6 15.9 16.3 0.45 0.003 <0.001
Non-menthol 25.7 25.3 24.2 21.6 20.4 19.6 17.3 −1.48 <0.001
Menthol 14.4 14.0 14.4 14.9 15.4 16.3 17.0 0.50 0.001 <0.001
Non-menthol 29.5 28.9 27.3 25.2 23.7 23.6 20.2 −1.57 <0.001
Menthol 13.6 13.3 13.8 13.5 13.9 15.5 15.6 0.35 0.02 <0.001
Non-menthol 21.9 21.6 21.1 18.0 17.1 15.6 14.3 −1.35 <0.001
Menthol 12.3 11.8 12.7 12.5 13.1 14.5 15.6 0.56 0.01 <0.001
Non-menthol 33.0 32.5 31.5 28.1 26.8 26.0 22.8 −1.76 <0.001
Non Hispanic Black
Menthol 27.5 26.0 25.0 24.0 24.5 24.2 24.6 −0.44 0.04 0.13
Non-menthol 2.0 2.3 1.7 1.8 1.2 1.9 1.5 −0.10 0.21
Menthol 11.2 11.4 11.4 12.9 13.1 14.1 12.7 0.40 0.03 <0.001
Non-menthol 20.6 20.5 17.5 15.9 16.0 14.6 13.9 −1.14 <0.001
Menthol 7.0 7.2 7.6 7.4 7.6 7.0 7.4 0.04 0.46 0.001
Non-menthol 16.9 17.2 16.8 16.4 15.9 16.1 15.3 −0.28 0.002
Menthol 6.8 6.7 7.5 7.4 7.4 6.5 7.1 0.03 0.76 0.003
Non-menthol 20.3 20.7 19.9 19.4 18.8 18.5 18.2 −0.40 <0.001
Menthol 7.3 7.7 7.6 7.3 7.8 7.4 7.7 0.02 0.65 0.04
Non-menthol 13.9 14.1 14.0 13.7 13.3 13.9 12.7 −0.17 0.07
6 Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159
was consistently observed across gender, household income,
smoking days per month and in non-Hispanic Caucasians and
Hispanics. Although an age gradient was not observed among
Black smokers, young Black smokers were more likely than
those in other racial/ethnic groups to smoke menthol cigarettes.
Preference for menthol cigarettes by young people likely occurs
because of marketing practices
and product formulation.
Analyses of tobacco industry documents conﬁrm that young
smokers may pursue mentholated brands for anticipated pleas-
ure and may experience more pleasure and less harshness from
mentholated brands than from non-mentholated varieties.
Our data, which include the 12–15-year-old age category,
control for household income and adjust for misclassiﬁcation of
menthol status, expand the knowledge base on this topic.
Secondly, differential progress has been observed, with the
prevalence of smoking non-mentholated cigarettes declining
relatively more rapidly than that of mentholated cigarettes.
Increasing use of menthol relative to non-menthol cigarettes
among adolescent and young adult Caucasians and young adult
Hispanics is especially concerning, given the large numbers of
young people in each of these racial/ethnic groups. Increased
uptake of menthol cigarettes may have contributed to the
slowing of the decline of adolescent smoking that has occurred
Finally, there have been increases in use of several major
menthol cigarette brands overall and speciﬁcally, among youth
and young adults from 2004–2006 to 2008–2010. Statistically
signiﬁcant declines in Salem cigarette use across all age groups
have been countered by dramatic increases in the use of Camel
menthol, Marlboro menthol and Newport cigarettes. For
example, among adolescents, Camel menthol use increased by
4.4% points and Marlboro menthol use increased by 5.5%
points during the study period. It is important to note that
Marlboro and Camel made stronger gains in the adolescent and
young adult markets, particularly so in Caucasians and
Hispanics, than Newport. This is consistent with evidence from
tobacco industry documents showing that several major tobacco
companies manipulated the levels of menthol in certain cigarette
brands to be closer to the low menthol levels in Newport and to
target younger smokers.
Increased use of several menthol
brands among young smokers have also been inﬂuenced by the
introduction of new products, including Marlboro Milds
(2000), Camel No. 9 (2007), Marlboro Smooth (2007) and
Camel Crush (2008).
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated
the impact of menthol marketing efforts that have been targeted
to African–Americans and women,
including the marketing
of Camel No. 9 which was shown to target adolescent girls.
Given high rates of internet and social media use among adoles-
cents and young adults,
increased use of ‘Web 2.0’ for
tobacco marketing may also play an important role in use of
particular brands among young smokers.
We believe it is
important for the FDA to monitor cigarette marketing for all
brands targeted to all demographic subgroups via channels such
as magazines, social media, the internet and direct mail, with
particular attention to differentiating speciﬁc brand characteris-
tics such as menthol.
Kahnert and colleagues at the German Cancer Research
Center have documented the recent spread, to at least 38 coun-
tries, of cigarette brands with menthol capsules in the ﬁlters.
These new products enable users to change the ﬂavour during
the smoking process from regular to menthol. Their marketing
targets young people. Tobacco companies involved include
British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, Philip
Morris and RJ Reynolds, and in the US, these products are mar-
keted as ‘Camel Crush’ and ‘Marlboro NXT’. In July 2013, the
European Union moved to ban menthol and ﬂavoured cigar-
ettes; while the FDA has already banned ﬂavoured cigarettes, it
recently called for more scientiﬁc information prior to deciding
on a menthol ban.
This study is limited in several ways. First, the deﬁnition of
menthol use is based on brand preference. We did not estimate
the number of mentholated and non-mentholated cigarettes
smoked during a period of time by each smoker. Rather, we esti-
mate the menthol status of the brand smoked most often.
Consistent with our ﬁndings, market share of menthol increased
during the study period.
Second, we measured prevalence of
use and not incidence of initiation. However, prevalence in
young people is largely driven by initiation rather than migra-
tion, cessation, or death. Third, we did not assess sales data
prior to 2008. Nevertheless, brands such as Kool, Newport and
Salem have long been classiﬁed as mentholated brands.
Finally, our data (table 1) indicate that the use of menthol cigar-
ettes among older smokers was less common than among ado-
lescent and young adult smokers. It is impossible to discern
with serial cross-sectional data from 2004–2010 whether
smokers switched away from menthol cigarettes as they aged.
The ﬁndings might simply indicate higher rates of menthol use
among more recent birth cohorts. Cohort surveys, with
Table 3 Continued
Type of cigarette
smoked/factor 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
p Value for difference
Menthol 5.3 5.2 5.5 5.4 5.5 4.8 5.3 −0.04 0.44 0.05
Non-menthol 19.7 19.8 19.0 19.1 18.6 18.9 18.1 −0.23 <0.001
Non Hispanic Black
Menthol 21.7 21.9 21.7 21.4 24.0 21.1 22.0 0.05 0.81 0.40
Non-menthol 3.6 4.7 5.2 4.5 3.3 3.7 3.0 −0.18 0.26
Menthol 5.3 6.6 7.0 6.9 6.0 7.3 7.7 0.27 0.07 0.02
Non-menthol 15.2 15.7 16.6 13.7 13.3 14.4 13.6 −0.37 0.10
Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2004–2010. Respondents aged 12 years and older. Self-reported menthol status was adjusted if necessary using retail checkout scanner
data. Sample size=389 698.
Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159 7
appropriate age groups, would facilitate the study of switching
The ﬁndings of this study complement previous research on
use among new smokers. The trend analyses reported here raise
important concerns about the deleterious effects of the sale and
marketing of mentholated cigarettes on progress in reducing
youth smoking. Overall decreases in non-menthol cigarette use
from 2004–2010 were not found for menthol use, indicating
that the presence of menthol cigarettes in the marketplace is
Figure 2 Percentage point change in prevalence of smoking various mentholated cigarette brands among past 30-day smokers by age and race/
ethnicity in the USA, 2004–2006 to 2008–2010. Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Self-reported menthol status for Kool, Newport
and Salem was adjusted if necessary using retail checkout scanner data. NB: non-Hispanic Caucasians represented by blue bars; non-Hispanic Blacks
represented by red bars; Hispanics represented by green bars. * p<0.05, **p<0.001 for difference in prevalence between 2004–2006 and 2008–
2010. Sample size= 84 457; 43 616 for 2004–2006 and 40 841 for 2008–2010.
8 Giovino GA, et al. Tob Control 2013;0:1–10. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051159
slowing progress in the reduction of population smoking preva-
lence. Concerns about menthol cigarette use in the USA have
previously focused on Blacks, who primarily have smoked
Newport cigarettes in most recent years.
The data presented
here also raise concerns about the increasing use of Camel
menthol and Marlboro menthol cigarettes among Caucasian
and Hispanic youths. Data from this study should be used to
inform the FDA’s decision-making processes regarding the
potential public health impact of a menthol ban and to raise
concern in multiple countries about the marketing of menthol-
ated cigarettes, particularly to young people.
What this paper adds
▸ This study provides more precision than previous research on
the use of mentholated cigarettes among young people. In
the multivariable model, menthol use was found to be most
likely in 12–15 year olds and 16–17 year olds. The
multivariable analysis also controlled for household income,
taking socioeconomic status into account.
▸ Previous work addressed trends in the percentage of
cigarette smokers who smoked menthol cigarettes. This
work presents trends in smoking menthol and non-menthol
cigarettes among all persons (not just cigarette smokers) in
each of the demographic categories examined, permitting
the conclusion that non-menthol cigarette use is declining
more rapidly than menthol cigarette use.
▸ Finally, the paper documents the rise of Camel Menthol and
Marlboro Menthol brands among young people, particularly
Caucasians and Hispanics. The information presented here
should be useful to the US Food and Drug Administration
and also to many other countries, where menthol cigarettes
are being marketed to young people.
Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, School of Public Health
and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York,
Buffalo, New York, USA
The Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Legacy,
Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Department of Health, Behavior and Society, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School
of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Biostatistics, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Department of Research and Evaluation, Legacy, Washington, District of Columbia,
Department of Oncology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Lombardi
Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Contributors GAG: conceived of the study. GAG and ACV: wrote the initial draft
of the manuscript. PDM and VS: conducted the data analysis. GAG, ACV, PDM, VS,
RSN, DMV and DBA: contributed to the analysis, interpretation of the data and to
the review, revision and approval of the ﬁnal article.
Funding This work was supported by Legacy. GAG, PDM and VS received
contractual support from Legacy for their work on this project. ACV, RSN, DMV and
DBA are employed at Legacy.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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