Menthol tobacco use is correlated with mental health symptoms in a national sample of young adults: implications for future health risks and policy recommendations

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Abstract

Background: Depression and anxiety are correlated with greater nicotine dependence, smoking persistence, and relapse back to smoking after a quit attempt. Menthol cigarette smoking, which is prevalent in young adults, is associated with nicotine dependence, progression to regular smoking, and worse cessation outcomes than non-menthol smoking. Few have established a link between menthol tobacco use, beyond just smoking, with mental health in this high-risk age group. This study examined the association of menthol tobacco use to anxiety and depression in a national sample of young adults. Methods: Data were from Waves 1 through 7 (n = 9720, weighted) of the Truth Initiative Young Adult Cohort, a national sample of men and women aged 18 to 34 assessed every 6-months. Demographics, past 30-day use of non-menthol and menthol tobacco products, and current alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use were assessed among those with depression and anxiety. Results: Thirty nine percent of current tobacco users used menthol as their preferred brand. Using a cross-sectional analysis (collapsed across waves), past 30-day menthol tobacco was uniquely associated with greater odds of both depression and anxiety, beyond the effects of demographic and substance correlates and non-menthol tobacco product use. Conclusions: Menthol is disproportionately used among young adults tobacco users with mental health problems, above and beyond the impact of a variety of other mental health and tobacco use risk factors. Findings suggest a strong link between menthol tobacco use and poor health outcomes. Policies should be developed to deter menthol tobacco use in vulnerable groups.

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Cohn, A. M., Johnson, A. L., Hair, E., Rath, J. M., & Villanti, A. C. (2016). Menthol tobacco use is correlated with mental health symptoms in a national sample of young adults: implications for future health risks and policy recommendations. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12971-015-0066-3

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