Smokers sometimes complain of sore throats from regular cigarettes.
Mentholated cigarettes, on the other hand, seem gentler on the throat because of the cool and soothing sensation of the menthol. And menthol, we all know, is also soothing in cough drops…in chest rubs…and in lots of other drugstore remedies.
So if you’re going to smoke, going with menthol makes sense, right?
Sorry, smokers—but if you think that menthol cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes, you’re quite wrong.
In fact, new research shows that people who smoke menthol cigarettes have an even higher risk than other smokers for one particularly dangerous type of cardiovascular event.
DON’T LET THE COOL FOOL YOU
When the researchers compared the health of smokers of mentholated cigarettes to the health of smokers of regular cigarettes, they found that menthol smokers were more than twice as likely to have had strokes.
When I spoke with the study’s author, Nicholas T. Vozoris, MD, a clinical associate in the division of respirology at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, he noted that the study didn’t look at why menthol cigarettes might affect health differently than regular cigarettes—but he has some ideas.
WHY MENTHOLS ARE MORE DANGEROUS
We do know that menthol stimulates cold receptors in the upper airway (which is why menthol feels so cool and soothing) and that when these receptors are active, people tend to hold in each breath longer than they otherwise would, said Dr. Vozoris. So the lungs would be exposed to a menthol cigarette’s toxic chemicals longer. And, he added, the tiny hairlike structures in the airway, cilia, that are supposed to move toxins out of the lungs during exhalation actually slow down a little when exposed to menthol, and that impairs clearance.
So why were there more strokes but not more heart attacks for menthol smokers? Dr. Vozoris said that it’s possible that menthol cigarettes and regular cigarettes affect different parts of the cardiovascular system in different ways or to different degrees. For instance, earlier studies have shown that the carotid arteries (the main arteries feeding the brain) tend to be stiffer (a bad thing) in people who smoke menthol cigarettes than in people who smoke regular cigarettes…but there was no such difference seen in the coronary arteries (near the heart).
BE PARTICULAR ABOUT WHAT YOU PUFF
I wish I could say that none of my readers and none of their loved ones smoke. But until that (great) day comes, I urge you to take this information to heart. If you must smoke, this new study suggests, at least stay away from menthols.