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Stop-smoking

14 July 2020

Ban menthol cigarettes, lower smoking rates?

Researchers concluded that up to 45% of current US menthol smokers might quit smoking in response to a menthol cigarette ban.

  • Flavoured cigarettes appeal to youths and young adults
  • An analysis found that a ban on menthol cigarettes may make smokers either quit or switch to e-cigarettes
  • The study concluded that a menthol cigarette ban is an important opportunity to improve public health


Want to make smoking less attractive to young people? Try taking menthol cigarettes off the market, a new analysis suggests.

The US Food and Drug Administration banned flavours in cigarettes in 2009 because flavours appeal to youth and young adults, and the agency recently announced that it also intends to ban menthol in cigarettes.

To assess what effect a ban on menthol cigarettes would have, Georgetown University researchers reviewed 24 studies on the impacts of restrictions on flavours in cigarettes.

Six of the studies examined menthol bans implemented across Canada, 12 assessed the potential effects of hypothetical menthol bans in Canada, the United States and Europe, and six looked at prior bans of non-menthol flavours in cigarettes in Canada and the United States.

E-cigarette alternatives

Based on their review, the researchers concluded that 11%–45% of current US menthol smokers might quit smoking in response to a menthol cigarette ban, while 15%–30% of menthol smokers might switch to e-cigarettes.

Menthol smokers quitting or switching to e-cigarettes are more likely to be young adults, and a menthol cigarette ban may reduce the number of youth who start smoking by 6%, according to the researchers.

They also found that while overall compliance with the menthol ban in Canada was high, studies into non-menthol flavour bans in the United States found that some retailers continued to sell banned products.

The review was published on 8 July in the journal BMC Public Health.

"Further research is needed to determine the potential influence of e-cigarette alternatives and their availability to consumers, and should consider the effects of menthol cigarette bans that have already been implemented in local areas of the US," study lead author and Georgetown professor David Levy said in a journal news release.

"Nevertheless, the evidence to date indicates that a menthol cigarette ban, especially if implemented nationally with high compliance, provides an important opportunity to improve public health by reducing smoking-attributable diseases," Levy said.

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