In May 2020, a European Union Revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) banning the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes went into effect. Despite Brexit, this ban also applies to the UK and includes capsule, click on, click & roll, crushball or dual menthol cigarettes, and excludes vaping and heated tobacco products.
Prior to the ban, tobacco companies JTI, Imperial, BAT and Philip Morris Limited (PML), had pledged to take back any remaining menthol stock and credit retailers for it. However, reports BetterRetailing.com, a number of retailers said they have been “missed” by the suppliers during the initial returns phase of the menthol ban.
“The cigarettes is money that I have not been able to use, especially over the two years. I’ve got around £800 [worth of stock],” said one of the retailers. “PML and BAT haven’t credited me back. I’ve tried to contact PML’s help desk. No one has come into the store for the last two to three years and I’ve seen no communication [about the take back process]. They have my records through track and trace. I’ve also been unable to resolve the issues through the help of my wholesaler.”
The report revealed that a BAT UK spokesperson had informed betterRetailing.com that a second returns phase was meant to be introduced at the end of 2021. “BAT UK carried out a significant menthol pack return exercise from September to December 2020. Retailers were asked to log on to a portal and share information on relevant stock so we would be able to pinpoint stores, quantities and brands impacted,” they said.
PHE investigates JTI’s New Dual Menthol Range
Meanwhile also in 2021, Public Health England (PHE) was told to investigate JTI, after the company introduced a menthols replacement range called “New Dual” across its Benson & Hedges, Mayfair and Silk Cut products, which reportedly still contains menthol. To this effect, the UK Government launched an investigation. The PHE is “in the process of writing to Japan Tobacco International to find out more information” said a source as quoted by an article in Inews at the time. “We will decide on next steps depending on the outcome of that investigation.”
Dr Rosemary Hiscock, of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, said that this move was required. “We welcome the news that PHE is pursuing this matter. JTI’s new ranges of product variants with similar names to their menthol cigarettes have been promoted under a ‘menthol re-imagined’ logo. Not surprisingly, retailers have reported that this confuses smokers.”
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) chief executive Deborah Arnott, believes that the investigation should be taken a step further. “During the Brexit transition period the UK still has access to the EU’s Independent Advisory Panel, which has been set up to determine whether or not tobacco products are in breach of the rules on flavours. Writing to the company to ask for more information is a waste of time, the UK should be referring these products to the independent panel for assessment without further delay.”