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Public opinion about FDA regulation of menthol and nicotine


Objective Regulations that reduce nicotine and eliminate menthol in cigarettes have been proposed to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as product alterations that could reduce smoking prevalence in the USA. This study sought to assess the public response to either action.

Methods A mail survey of a representative sample of 1074 adults was conducted in two major metropolitan areas to determine the level of support for immediate, gradual or no reduction of menthol and nicotine in cigarettes.

Results There was more support for reducing nicotine (79%) than for reducing or removing menthol (59.5%). Most smokers (59.2%; 95% CI 50.7 to 67.2) and 36% of non-smokers (95% CI 31.7 to 40.8) opposed eliminating menthol, but few smokers (23.8%) or non-smokers (20.3%) were opposed to reducing nicotine. Logistic regression showed no significant effect of smoking status on support for reductions in nicotine, but that smokers were significantly less supportive than non-smokers of FDA action on menthol (OR=0.32, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.49). A significant race by smoking status interaction showed that African-American smokers were more supportive of removing menthol than non-African-American smokers.

Conclusions The greater smoker support for reductions in nicotine than menthol could be due to inaccurate beliefs about the disease risk associated with the two substances (ie, a belief that nicotine is more harmful than menthol), or to greater awareness of the sensory role that menthol plays in smokers’ satisfaction. In any case, if FDA goes ahead with regulations to remove menthol, it will be important to develop strategies to reduce smoker resistance.

  • Public Policy
  • Public Opinion
  • Prevention
  • Addiction
  • Nicotine

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