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Roughly 1 in 10 CT adults still use cigarettes, as CDC urges smokers to quit

CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® campaign
Courtesty of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® campaign

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched new ads Monday to encourage people to quit smoking.

“As a gay teen trying to figure out who I was, I hid behind cigarettes,” said “Angie P.” from Cincinnati, speaking in one of the CDC ads.

“It impacted me, I've been a singer since I was three,” said Angie, who discussed her medical history in an interview with Connecticut Public and asked to not use her full name. “So I sang, you know, [in] gospel choirs, rhythm and blues bands, and even had a short stint in Vegas. But I couldn't hit the notes that I was known for, and I knew that it had caught up with me.”

Now 62, Angie said she quit smoking in her forties. And her experience of beginning with menthol cigarettes, which can change the way the brain registers sensations of taste and pain, is far from unique.

Menthol, an ingredient that’s added to cigarettes, makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit because of its “numbing and cooling properties,” said Kristy Marynak, advisor at the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

The cigarettes have “a minty aroma and smell that makes it easier to inhale cigarette smoke more deeply and … masks the harshness of cigarette smoke,” Marynak said.

Currently about one out of every ten adults in Connecticut smokes cigarettes, according to the CDC.

Many, like Angie, start young. She was 15 years old when she first began smoking.

“They used to have little candy cigarettes that you could blow and something would come out the end,” Angie said. “And, you know, I was attracted to the packaging of the cigarettes that my mom smoked. And then I was attracted because my mother was beautiful. And if she did it, it was okay.”

Young people, racial and ethnic minority groups, and LGBTQ+ people, are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other groups, according to the CDC. The products are also more likely to be used by women, people with a low income, and individuals with mental health conditions, the agency said.

Tobacco companies aggressively market menthol-flavored tobacco products especially to people who identify as Black or African American, according to the CDC.

If menthol cigarettes were no longer available, the CDC said an estimated 8,200 additional adults in Connecticut who smoke would quit smoking.

The agency is encouraging smokers to quit by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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