African American and Hispanic adults who smoke menthol cigarettes may be less likely to quit smoking than those who smoke regular cigarettes, a new study by researchers at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health has found. The report, published in the December issue of Preventive Medicine, is believed to be the first to use national statistics to examine the association between menthol cigarettes and smoking cessation among adults.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2005 National Health Interview Survey and identified 7,815 current and former cigarette smokers who had reported at least one attempt to quit smoking. Just 43.7 percent of African American adults and 48.1 percent of Hispanic adults who smoked menthol cigarettes were able to quit smoking. African Americans and Hispanics who smoked non-menthol cigarettes had similar quit rates to white adults (62.1 percent and 61.2 percent, respectively). Overall, the researchers noted that non-whites tend to smoke fewer cigarettes per day and are about three times more likely than whites to smoke menthol cigarettes.

"Historically, tobacco companies have targeted minority populations when marketing menthol cigarettes," said Cristine Delnevo, PhD, director of the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health and one of the authors of the study. "Although whites and non-whites have similar smoking prevalence rates, the fact that non-whites are more likely to smoke menthols, and those who smoke menthols are less likely to quit, could explain why minority populations continue to suffer disproportionately from tobacco-caused disease and death."

Daniel Gundersen, lead author and a doctoral student at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, added, "With the substantial number of smokers smoking menthol cigarettes, particularly among minorities, this is serious cause for concern."

The researchers noted that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which became law earlier this year, banned the use of flavorings in cigarettes, but specifically excluded menthol, citing the need for further research into the impact of menthol cigarettes on youth and minorities.

The UMDNJ-School of Public Health is the nation's first collaborative school of public health and is sponsored by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in cooperation with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,900 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/ Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.

Source: UMDNJ