• April 18, 2024

Menthol Ban Would Make Many Quit: Paper

 Menthol Ban Would Make Many Quit: Paper

Photo: Alicia

Photo: Alicia

Banning the sale of menthol cigarettes would likely lead to a meaningful reduction in smoking rates, according to a new paper in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, published by Oxford University Press.

Health advocates are concerned about menthol because the ingredient’s cooling effects mask the harshness of cigarettes, making it easier for young people to start smoking. Prior research has also found that menthol in cigarettes makes it easier for smokers to absorb nicotine, which results in greater dependence. According to critics, menthol smokers also find it harder to quit smoking compared to those who smoke nonmenthol cigarettes.

Prevalence rates of menthol cigarette use among cigarette smokers vary globally. Some 7.4 percent of smokers in Europe use menthol cigarettes. In the United States, however, some 43.4 percent of adult smokers used menthol cigarettes in 2020. Menthol cigarettes are disproportionately used by young people, racial/ethnic minorities and lower-income smokers. About 81 percent of non-Hispanic Black smokers in the U.S. use menthol cigarettes, as compared to 34 percent of White smokers. More than 170 U.S. cites and two states, several countries, including Canada, Ethiopia, and the European Union ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.

Researchers here measured the effects of these policies. The investigators conducted a systematic search of studies published in English up to November to discover how menthol bans change smoking behavior. The researchers involved in this study looked at 78 prior studies, mostly from Canada, the European Union and the United States.

The study finds that the effect of menthol cigarette bans are substantial. The results show that while 50 percent of menthol smokers switched to smoking non-menthol cigarettes, almost a quarter (24 percent) of menthol cigarette smokers quit smoking altogether after a menthol ban. Some 12 percent switched to other flavored tobacco products, and 24 percent continued smoking menthol cigarettes. The study also finds that national menthol bans appear more effective than local or state menthol bans, as quit rates were higher in places with country-wide bans.

“This review provides compelling evidence for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes,” said the paper’s lead author, Sarah Mills, in a statement. “In December 2023 the White House postponed banning menthol cigarettes. Our review of the evidence suggests this delay is causing harm to the health of the public, especially among Black communities. Contrary to industry claims, studies find no increase in the use of illicit products. A menthol cigarette ban would provide the greatest benefits to Black people who smoke. As a result of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, today every 4 in 5 Black smokers use menthol cigarettes.”