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Use of Menthol Cigarettes, Smoking Frequency, and Nicotine Dependence Among US Youth



Menthol may make cigarette smoke less aversive and could lead youth to smoke more frequently and become more dependent on nicotine.


To assess the association of menthol use with cigarette smoking frequency and nicotine dependence (ND) among youth cigarettes users.

Design, setting, and participants

This cohort study used a pooled sample of cohorts of US youth (aged 12-17 years at their baseline and follow-up interviews) in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study (September 2013 to November 2019). Household interviews were conducted using audio computer-assisted self-interviews. US youth who were past-30-day cigarette smokers at any of wave 2 through wave 5, completed the preceding survey (eg, wave 2 past-30-day cigarette smokers completed wave 1), and indicated whether they used menthol cigarettes were eligible. The association of menthol use with smoking frequency and ND was estimated using inverse probability of treatment weighting adjusted mean differences (aMDs), adjusted risk ratios (aRRs), and corresponding 95% CIs. Data were analyzed from December 2021 to March 2022.


Menthol use and transitions in use (switching to or from menthol cigarettes).

Main outcomes and measures

Main outcomes were the number of days smoked in the past 30 days, the risk of frequent smoking (smoking ≥20 days in the past 30 days), and symptoms of ND.


There were a total of 1492 observations among 1096 US youth cigarette smokers, of whom 49.4% were female, 67.2% were non-Hispanic White, and 28.7% were aged 12 to 14 years at their baseline survey (all percentages are weighted). Among those who switched from not smoking to smoking (61% of the sample), menthol use was associated with smoking on 3.1 additional days (aMD; 95% CI, 1.9 to 4.2 days), 59% higher risk of being a frequent smoker (aRR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.23 to 2.06), and 10% higher ND scores (aMD, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.17). Switching from smoking menthol to smoking nonmenthol (vs maintaining menthol use) was associated with smoking on 3.6 fewer days (aMD; 95% CI, -6.3 to -0.9 days) and 47% lower risk of being a frequent smoker (aRR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.50 to 0.92).

Conclusions and relevance

These findings suggest that the addition of menthol to cigarettes is associated with increased smoking frequency and ND among US youth.

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