FRIDAY, June 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who use menthol cigarettes are heavier smokers than those who smoke non-menthols, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed data from a 2010-11 survey of more than 4,700 Canadian high school students who smoked and found that one-third of them smoked menthol cigarettes.
Menthol cigarette users smoked an average of 43 cigarettes a week, compared with 26 per week among those who did not smoke menthol cigarettes, the researchers found.
And teens who smoked menthol cigarettes were nearly three times more likely than other teen smokers to say they intended to continue smoking in the next year.
"The appeal of menthol cigarettes among youth stems from the perception that they are less harmful than regular cigarettes," study author Sunday Azagba, a scientist at the Propel Center for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said in a university news release. "The minty taste helps mask the noxious properties, but the reality is that they are just as dangerous as any unflavored cigarette."
The study, published in the June issue of the journal Cancer Causes and Control, only shows an association between menthol cigarettes and heavier smoking, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Still, the findings are worrisome, said Azagba.
"There is a growing concern that the high popularity of menthol cigarettes among youth may hinder the recent progress in preventing other young people from smoking because many of them may experiment with menthol rather than unflavored brands," Azagba said.
Nearly one in 10 Canadian students in grades 10 to 12 is a smoker, the researchers said.
Moving forward, Azagba said, it's clear that new laws are needed to ban all added flavors in all tobacco products.
The American Cancer Society has more about menthol cigarettes.
SOURCE: University of Waterloo, news release, June 20, 2014