Monday, March 04, 2013

Menthol preference by race

Some follow up on the previous post looking at racial distributions of smokers of the top cigarette brands in the US. Firstly, a couple of commenters asserted that Parliaments are the SWPL brand of choice. Here's the breakdown:

Primarily white with a nice Asian showing and a correspondingly weak NAM share. Looks like we have a winner. Rescued pit bulls suffer secondhand smoke from Newports and then from Parliaments, poor creatures.

Secondly, Billy Bob noted the accusation that by disguising the harshness of cigarette smoke, menthol-flavored cigarettes encourage younger people to take up the vice who might otherwise not if their options were limited to non-menthol options. The FDA applied the same line of reasoning when it banned the sale of other flavored cigarettes in 2009.

Fortunately, the NSHDU survey asked participants whether they've primarily smoked menthols or non-menthols in the past month. Cross referencing these responses to the age ranges of said respondents allows us to look at the relationship of age and menthol preference among smokers. The following graph shows the percentages of smokers who primarily smoked menthols in the last month by age range (and specific age, to the extent the survey data allows for it to be reported). To avoid racial confounding, only non-Hispanic whites are considered:

Tough to argue with the claim that younger smokers are relatively more inclined towards menthols than older (and, by extension, more veteran) smokers are. There is some expected noise, especially among 12 and 13 year-olds, but the trend is clear. The question of whether or not young smokers who take up menthols would be willing to smoke non-menthols at the same age remains, but surely some portion of them would not be apt to do so. Seems plausible to presume that banning menthols would reduce smoking rates (obviously), but more importantly, would disproportionately reduce smoking rates among young people.

There is a racial component to the question of banning menthols, of course. Namely, blacks of all ages are far more likely to smoke menthols than non-blacks are. The following graph shows the menthol/non-menthol distribution of smokers by race:

The idea of banning menthols is akin to prosecuting crack cocaine more aggressively than powder cocaine, and that sets off all kinds of PC alarm bells.

National Survey on Health and Drug Use variables used: CIG30MEN, AGE2, CIG30BR2(120), NEWRACE2(1)(2)(3)(4-5)(6)(7)


SC said...

The strong SWPL showing for Parliaments is not a surprise. How the heck did Parliaments do so well with Asians? Is it because they are aggressively marketed in Japan?

Anonymous said...

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