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Recent, national trends in US adolescent use of menthol and non-menthol cigarettes


Objective In light of the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposal to ban menthol cigarettes, this study updates trends in menthol cigarette use among adolescents age 13–18 years up to the year 2020. The study considers a potential role for the ban to reduce black/non-black disparities in menthol cigarette use, as well as a counterargument that a ban is not necessary because menthol use is already diminishing.

Methods Data are from annual, cross-sectional, nationally representative Monitoring the Future (MTF) surveys of 85 547 8th, 10th and 12th grade students surveyed between 2012 and 2020. Analyses include trends in past 30-day menthol and non-menthol cigarette smoking among the total adolescent population, as well as stratified by race/ethnicity.

Results Declines in adolescent menthol and non-menthol cigarette smoking continued through 2020 so that in 2018–2020 past 30-day prevalence for each was less than 1% for non-Hispanic black adolescents and less than 2.2% for non-black adolescents. For non-Hispanic black adolescents no smoking declines in mentholated or non-mentholated cigarette use from 2015–2017 to 2018–2020 were statistically significant, in part because prevalence levels approached a floor effect and had little room to fall further. Menthol levels were lower for non-Hispanic black versus all other adolescents in all study years.

Conclusions Continuing declines in adolescent menthol prevalence indicate that both menthol prevalence and also black/non-black disparities in its use are steadily decreasing. However, these decreases in adolescence will take decades to reach later ages through generational replacement. Efforts to accelerate menthol decreases will require new initiatives to increase cessation among adult menthol users.

  • public policy
  • prevention
  • priority/special populations

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. Data are available at the National Addiction and HIV Data Archive Program at

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