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.”

May 31, 2017

Study highlights effectiveness of worldwide tobacco control treaty

World No Tobacco Day

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco is used by over 1 billion people and is the number one preventable cause of death and disease. Tobacco—especially smoked tobacco—causes 30 per cent of the world’s cancer cases and so tobacco control is the number one strategy for preventing cancer. Tobacco use kills six million people a year. It also brings a staggering economic cost of US$1 trillion a year in health care expenditures and lost productivity.

The WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) is a treaty that was created to combat the global tobacco epidemic. Currently, 179 countries and the European Union have joined the treaty, which obligates countries covering about 90 per cent of the world’s population to implement a set of strong evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use. The FCTC is, in effect, the most extensive cancer prevention effort in history. The FCTC recently marked ten years since its coming into force. But how much impact have these measures made? A research team centered at the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (the ITC Project), University of Waterloo (UW), recently published a study that demonstrated the positive impact of the FCTC on smoking rates.

Dr. Shannon Gravely, Research Assistant Professor at UW, was the lead author on the study, which was published in Lancet Public Health in March. The study examined how the implementation of five key FCTC tobacco policies affected smoking prevalence across 126 countries. “We looked at the highest-level implementation (i.e. fully satisfying the requirements of the FCTC) of these measures between 2007-2014 and the smoking prevalence estimates for the first 10 years of the FCTC, from 2005 to 2015,” says Gravely. “We found a strong and statistically significant association between the number of these FCTC measures and decreases in smoking rates.”

The five tobacco demand-reduction measures studied by the ITC Project team were: 1) Taxation; 2) Smoke-free policies; 3) Warning labels; 4) Bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and 5) Cessation programs. The researchers found that with each additional measure implemented at its highest level, countries experienced an average decline in smoking prevalence of 1.57 percentage points, or a relative decrease of 7.09 per cent.

“It is indeed good news that the FCTC measures are associated with decreasing the number of smokers, but the bad news is that few countries are actually implementing these effective measures,” says Gravely. Only a fifth of the countries covered in the study had implemented taxes on tobacco at the highest levels called for under the treaty. “We found this to be particularly worrisome as it is known that increasing the price of tobacco via taxes is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use,” says Gravely. In fact, none of the five key FCTC policies had been implemented by even half of the countries.

“Overall, the study found that these measures, when implemented at their highest levels are very effective at reducing smoking rates,” comments Gravely. “Our findings highlight the importance of tobacco control measures in improving global health by directly decreasing the rates of smoking thus in turn indirectly reducing tobacco-attributed-non-communicable diseases.”

Dr. Geoffrey Fong, Professor of Psychology and Public Health and Health Systems at UW and OICR Senior Investigator, is Chief Principal Investigator of the ITC Project. Fong, a co-author of the article, commented, “This study should be a call to arms for governments to strengthen and accelerate their efforts to fully implement the FCTC secure in knowing that such efforts will significantly reduce the devastation caused by tobacco products in their countries.”