New Research Shows Menthol Cigarette Bans Effective in Promoting Smoking Cessation

Menthol cigarette restrictions are effective in encouraging people to give up smoking, according to a recent study that was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco study. After analyzing studies from over 170 US localities, two states, multiple countries, and the European Union, the research provides strong evidence for the benefits of these bans on public health.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified a menthol ban as a “top priority,” but despite clear health benefits revealed by research, public health advocates have criticized the Biden administration for perceived delays, and the issue has become entangled in election-year politics.

The pooled results from the research indicate that approximately 25% of menthol smokers successfully quit within one to two years following the implementation of menthol bans. For those who did not quit, about 50% shifted to non-menthol cigarettes, 12% transitioned to other flavored tobacco products, and 25% continued smoking menthols.

Notably, the study suggests that national bans proved most effective, showcasing lower menthol cigarette smoking rates in settings with nationwide bans compared to those with only local or statewide bans.

Despite concerns raised by the tobacco industry about the potential rise of illegal menthol cigarette markets, the research found no evidence supporting such claims. Dr. Sarah Mills, co-author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Public Health, emphasized that there was no observed increase in the use of illicit products.

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Menthol Cigarette Ban to Improve Public Health

Menthol cigarette restrictions are effective in encouraging people to give up smoking, according to a recent study that was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco study.

The study concludes by urging the FDA to move forward with a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes, emphasizing the potential health benefits, especially considering that smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the US.

A nationwide menthol ban could particularly benefit communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community, both historically targeted by the tobacco industry’s advertising. The prevalence of menthol smoking is higher among Black smokers, comprising over 83% of the demographic. Additionally, studies show that menthol-flavored cigarettes are appealing to children, and a ban could help prevent new smokers from initiating tobacco use.

While menthol itself is not addictive, the flavoring makes menthol cigarettes more attractive to new smokers by masking the harsh taste and smell, facilitating the initiation of smoking and making it more challenging to quit.

Although prior tobacco control efforts have been successful in lowering overall smoking rates, the study notes that it is still critical to address differences in smoking-related illnesses, especially among racial and ethnic groups.

Experts, including Dr. Rafael Meza, underscore the pivotal nature of this research as the US contemplates a menthol ban. Meza highlights the potential for closing the gap in lung cancer deaths between Black and White populations within five years if menthols were banned.

The research is an essential addition to the current discussion over menthol cigarette bans and their possible effects on smoking cessation and public health in general, as the country wrestles with this public health issue.

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