A recent study found that the 2020 European menthol cigarette ban boosted the probability that menthol smokers will quit smoking. This conclusion backs with previous Canadian studies on the public health benefits of the menthol cigarette ban.
The study was directed by Christina Kyriakos and included researchers from Maastricht University, the Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands, the International Tobacco Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project) from the University of Waterloo in Canada, and Christina Kyriakos from Imperial College London.
According to Geoffrey T. Fong, professor of psychology and public health sciences at Waterloo and the project’s lead investigator, “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.”
Before and after the EU menthol ban, the study team polled a national sample of adult smokers in the Netherlands who smoked both menthol and non-menthol cigarettes. 26.1 per cent of menthol smokers who were polled both before and after the ban had given up. This quit percentage was higher than that of the non-menthol smoking control group, which had a quit rate of only 14.1%.
In fact, the higher quit rate of 12% for menthol smokers following the European ban is higher than the higher quit rate of 7.3% discovered in an ITC study of the menthol ban that was in place across Canada in 2018.
Tobacco manufacturers have been adding menthol to cigarettes for decades because it has a cooling effect that reduces the harshness of smoke. It makes smoking more accessible, increasing the possibility that young individuals who do not already smoke may begin smoking on a daily basis and acquire a nicotine addiction.
For more than ten years, the World Health Organization and various other public health organisations have pushed governments to ban menthol cigarettes in an effort to reduce smoking, which kills 7.1 million smokers and 1.2 million nonsmokers each year due to secondhand smoke. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a worldwide tobacco control accord, calls on states to ban or restrict the use of menthol and other smoking aids.
Menthol cigarettes are now illegal in 35 countries. On April 28, 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed regulation prohibiting the use of menthol in cigarettes and cigars. According to an ITC research on the consequences of the Canadian prohibition published that day, a ban on menthol cigarettes in the United States is projected to result in the cessation of more than 1.3 million smokers.
According to the Dutch survey, one-third of menthol users acknowledged to continuing their habit despite the restriction. Tobacco companies supply a number of accessories that allow users to flavour their own tobacco products with menthol.
“The effectiveness of the menthol prohibition is weakened by these activities by the cigarette industry. The impact of the menthol ban on quitting could be even greater if regulations were tightened to include these menthol add-ons, according to Marc Willemsen, co-author of the Dutch study, professor of tobacco control research at Maastricht University, and scientific director of tobacco control at the Trimbos Institute.
Impact of the European Union’s menthol cigarette ban on smoking cessation outcomes: Longitudinal findings from the 2020-2021 ITC Netherlands Surveys is the study’s title, and it was published in the journal Tobacco Control.