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Menthol Smoking Patterns and Smoking Perceptions Among Youth: Findings From the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study

      Introduction

      Youth may be attracted to menthol cigarettes because they are perceived as less harmful and harsh to smoke relative to non-menthol cigarettes. This study examined demographic factors and menthol cigarette smoking patterns as correlates of youth harm perceptions of cigarette smoking and ease of smoking menthol versus non-menthol cigarettes.

      Methods

      Data were from the Wave 1 (2013–2014) youth sample of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. Weighted multivariable logistic regression models were used to examine correlations between demographic factors and menthol cigarette smoking patterns (menthol initiation, past 30-day menthol cigarette smoking, and menthol cigarette brand preference), with harm perceptions of cigarette smoking and ease of smoking a menthol cigarette.

      Results

      Nearly half of ever cigarette smoking youth (43%) first used a menthol cigarette; 21% reported past 30-day menthol cigarette smoking; and 42% of past 30-day smokers providing brand information used a menthol cigarette as their preferred brand. In bivariate analyses, initiation with a menthol cigarette and menthol brand preference (versus non-menthol) were correlated with black race, older age at initiation, and past 30-day menthol cigarette smoking. In adjusted models, past 30-day menthol cigarette smoking and menthol cigarette brand preference, but not menthol initiation, were correlated with the perception that menthol cigarettes are easier to smoke.

      Conclusions

      Youth who smoke menthol cigarettes perceive them as easier to smoke, even after adjusting for other factors. Age of initiation and black race emerged as correlates of menthol cigarette initiation, brand preference, and cigarette harm perceptions, and may inform future prevention campaigns.
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