Menthol Cigarette Ban Could Lead to a Quarter of All Smokers Quitting: Study

Banning menthol cigarettes on a national level made it more difficult for the tobacco industry to maneuver around restrictions on the popular product, which was particularly attractive to those who do not like cigarette smoke.

Banning menthol cigarettes could greatly reduce the number of smokers nationwide in the year after the ban goes into effect, according to the findings of a new study.

A group of researchers is calling for a national menthol cigarette ban, indicating the bans have been effective in helping tobacco smokers quit smoking on a regional level and may be more effective if enacted nationwide. The findings were published on February 21 in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Health experts have long condemned traditional tobacco cigarettes for their harmful effects on human health, including lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, bronchitis, and worsened respiratory symptoms like chronic wheezing and cough. However, recent research highlights the adverse effects linked to flavored tobacco products, particularly menthol cigarettes.

Menthol cigarettes are widely known to encourage individuals to start smoking, since they produce a cooling sensation that masks the irritants in traditional cigarettes. However, they also reduce the number of people who can quit the habit, once addicted to nicotine.

In 2022, federal regulators issued a proposed rule to ban menthol cigarettes at the national level in hopes of preventing a new generation of Americans from becoming addicted to nicotine. However, the FDA has not yet finalized the ban.

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Effectiveness of Menthol Cigarette Bans

Researchers from the Billings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed 78 studies published up to November 2022.

The researchers focused on evaluating the impact of real-world and hypothesized bans on menthol cigarettes at the federal, national, state, and local levels of various countries and nations around the world.

According to the findings, after a ban on menthol cigarettes was enacted, 24% of smokers quit smoking in the following year. However, more than half of those who still smoked after the bans switched to non-menthols or traditional tobacco cigarettes.

About 12% of smokers switched to other flavored tobacco products, like menthol or candy-flavored vapes or other nicotine alternatives, the researchers indicated. Another 24% of smokers simply continued to smoke menthol cigarettes and found places that still sold the products after menthol bans. In some cases, driving outside of areas where bans were imposed.

National Menthol Bans More Effective

Overall, the rate of menthol smokers who quit was higher in nations that imposed menthol bans compared to cities or states that did not. This is because enacting a ban in large geographic areas prohibits smokers from driving a few miles outside of a ban area to buy prohibited products, the researchers determined.

In some cases, smokers simply choose to quit, they noted.

Additionally, researchers concluded other studies have shown the tobacco industry tries to undermine menthol bans, but that becomes much more difficult when the ban is nationwide.

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