April 15, 2021

Ban on menthol cigarettes in Canada leads to more smokers quitting

A new study has looked at the effects of bans on menthol cigarettes after two years across seven Canadian provinces and found that once in place, 58.7 per cent of menthol smokers attempted to quit compared to 49 per cent in non-menthol smokers. The study was conducted by the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (the ITC Project), which is led by Dr. Geoff Fong, OICR Senior Investigator and Professor at the University of Waterloo.

The study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, also found that those who smoke menthols daily were nearly twice as likely to attempt to quit as daily non-menthol smokers – 21 vs. 11.6 per cent. Also, menthol smokers who had quit before the ban were much less likely than non-menthol smokers to relapse. The study used a national sample of 1,098 non-menthol and 138 menthol smokers participating in the ITC Canada Smoking and Vaping Survey, who were surveyed both before the menthol ban (in 2016) and after the menthol ban (in 2018).

Menthol flavoured cigarettes create a cooling effect that numbs the harshness of cigarette smoke, which helps draw in and keep new smokers, especially young people. They are also of concern to public health experts in the U.S., where 85 per cent of menthol cigarette smokers are African American. As a result, that community has felt much greater harms from menthol cigarette use. Fong and other experts have continued to call for a ban in the U.S.

“Our study demonstrates the substantial benefits of banning menthol cigarettes,” says Fong. “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.”

“The positive effects of the Canada menthol ban suggest that a U.S. menthol ban would lead to greater benefits since menthol cigarettes are much more popular in the U.S. From our findings, we estimate that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would lead an additional 923,000 smokers to quit, including 230,000 African American smokers.”