Background: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is examining options for regulating menthol content in cigarettes. There are many pharmacologic properties of menthol that may facilitate exposure to tobacco smoke, and it has been suggested that the preference for menthol cigarettes in black smokers accounts for their higher cotinine levels. Objective: To assess cigarettes smoked per day-adjusted cotinine levels in relation to smoking a menthol or nonmenthol cigarette brand among non-Hispanic black and white U.S. adult smokers under natural smoking conditions. Method: Serum cotinine concentrations were measured in 1,943 smokers participating in the 2001 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The effect of smoking a menthol brand on cigarettes smoked per day-adjusted serum cotinine levels in these two populations was modeled by adjusting for sex, age, number of smokers living in the home, body weight, time since last smoked, and FTC (Federal Trade Commission)-measured nicotine levels. The 8- or 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) on the cigarette label was used to determine the cigarette brand and whether it was menthol. Results: Smoking a menthol cigarette brand versus smoking a nonmenthol cigarette brand was not associated (P ≥ 0.05) with mean serum cotinine concentration in either black or white smokers. Conclusions: The higher levels of cotinine observed in black smokers compared with white smokers are not explained by their higher preference for menthol cigarette brands. Impact: Further studies like ours are needed to improve our ability to understand health consequences of future changes in tobacco product design.
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