Assessing the evidence on the differential impact of menthol versus non-menthol cigarette use on smoking cessation in the U.S. population: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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The potential impact of menthol versus non-menthol cigarette use on smoking behaviors is an intensely scrutinized topic in the public health arena. To date, several general literature reviews have been conducted, but findings and conclusions have been discordant. This systematic review followed PRISMA guidelines to examine the Key Question, "Does menthol cigarette use have a differential impact on smoking cessation compared with non-menthol cigarette use?"


Six databases-Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, MEDLINE, Embase and PsycInfo-were queried from inception to June 12, 2020. Articles comparing menthol versus non-menthol cigarette smokers in terms of at least one predefined smoking cessation outcome were included. Risk of bias was assessed using the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Evidence-Based Practice Center approach. A random-effects model utilizing the DerSimonian and Laird method to pool adjusted odds ratio was applied. Variations among pooled studies were assessed using Cochran's Q statistic, and heterogeneity was quantified using the inconsistency index (I2).


Forty-three demographically adjusted studies (22 rated "good", 20 rated "fair", and one study rated "poor" individual study quality) comparing menthol and non-menthol smokers were qualitatively synthesized across the following measures (study count; strength of evidence): duration of abstinence (2; low); quit attempts (15; insufficient); rate of abstinence/quitting (29; moderate); change in smoking quantity/frequency (5; insufficient); and, return to smoking/relapse (2; insufficient). Overall, the qualitative synthesis failed to show a consistent trend for an association between menthol cigarette use and smoking cessation across outcomes. Meta-analyses found no difference between menthol and non-menthol cigarette use and either quit attempts or abstinence.


Given the lack of consistency or statistical significance in the findings-combined with a "low" overall strength of evidence grade, based on deficiencies of indirectness and inconsistency-no consistent or significant associations between menthol cigarette use and smoking cessation were identified. Recommendations for future studies include increased focus on providing longitudinal, adjusted data collected from standardized outcome measures of cessation to better inform long-term smoking cessation and menthol cigarette use. Such improvements should also be further considered in more methodologically rigorous systematic reviews characterized by objectivity, comprehensiveness, and transparency with the ultimate objective of better informing public health and policy decision making.





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Kim, Mimi M, Mimi M Kim and Geoffrey M Curtin (2021). Assessing the evidence on the differential impact of menthol versus non-menthol cigarette use on smoking cessation in the U.S. population: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy, 16(1). p. 61. 10.1186/s13011-021-00397-4 Retrieved from

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Mimi Misung Kim

Consulting Associate in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

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