Canada was one of the first countries to implement a ban on menthol cigarettes, and the first country where a menthol ban has been evaluated. To examine the menthol ban impact, Fong and his colleagues surveyed nearly 1,100 non-menthol and 138 menthol smokers in 2016 (before the ban), and after the ban in 2018, across seven Canadian provinces, covering 83% of the Canadian population.
The researchers found that menthol smokers were much more likely to attempt quitting smoking than non-menthol smokers following the ban, at 59% versus 49%. They also found that menthols’ daily smokers were nearly two times more likely than non-menthols’ daily smokers to quit after the ban, at 21% versus over 11%.
Menthols’ ex-smokers were more likely to relapse prior to ban
Published in Tobacco Control, the study had also indicated that menthol smokers who quit smoking before the menthol ban, were also significantly less likely than non-menthol smokers who had quit, to start smoking again.
Moreover, the ban did not seem to lead to an increase in illicit trade. “…did not lead to a high level of illicit menthol cigarette purchasing, which has been a concern by regulators considering a menthol ban,” said Fong, who added that “fewer than 10% of menthol smokers reported still smoking a menthol brand after the ban.”
WHO: banning menthols would have significant public health benefits
Scientific reviews conducted by U.S. health experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that banning menthol cigarettes would have significant public health benefits. In the United States, those benefits might be greatest among black Americans because the percentage of black smokers who smoke menthols is 2.8 times higher than among white smokers, at 85%. “Our study demonstrates the substantial benefits of banning menthol cigarettes,” said Fong in a university press release.
“The enormous success of the Canadian menthol ban makes it even clearer now that the U.S. should finally ban menthol, which the tobacco industry has used for decades to attract new smokers and to keep many of them as customers, especially among the African American community,” he added.