The 2020 European ban on menthol cigarettes made it more likely that menthol smokers would quit smoking, according to a new study published in Tobacco Control.
“This Dutch study is our second major national study to provide evidence of the powerful impact of banning menthol cigarettes on quitting, which supports proposed menthol bans in the U.S. and other countries,” said Geoffrey T. Fong, professor of psychology and public health sciences at Waterloo, and the principal investigator of the ITC Project in a statement.
Previous Canadian research also found a positive public health impact of banning menthol cigarettes.
In the most recent study, the research team surveyed a national sample of adult smokers of menthol and non-menthol cigarettes in the Netherlands before and after the EU menthol ban. Of the menthol smokers surveyed before and after the ban, 26.1 percent had quit smoking. This quit rate was higher than the control group of non-menthol smokers, of whom only 14.1 percent had quit.
In fact, the increased quit rate of 12 percent of menthol smokers after the European ban is greater than the increased quit rate of 7.3 percent found in an ITC study of the menthol ban that was in effect across Canada in 2018.
The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control calls upon countries to prohibit or restrict menthol and other additives that make smoking easier.
To date, 35 countries have banned menthol cigarettes. On April 28, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a proposed rule to ban menthol in cigarettes and cigars. An ITC study published that day on the impact of the Canadian ban projected that a ban on menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would lead more than 1.3 million smokers to quit.
The Dutch study also found that one-third of menthol smokers reported continuing to smoke menthol cigarettes even after the ban. The tobacco industry markets a wide range of accessories to enable people to add menthol flavoring to tobacco products themselves.
“These tobacco industry actions undermine the effectiveness of the menthol ban,” said Marc Willemsen, co-author of the Dutch study and professor in tobacco control research at Maastricht University and scientific director of tobacco control at the Trimbos Institute. “By tightening the regulations to include these menthol add-ons, the impact of the menthol ban on quitting could be even greater.”