Menthol bans could reduce smoking by 15%, by leading many smokers to quit or switching to less harmful nicotine products.
In California, R.J. Reynolds has begun marketing what it claims is a new, non-menthol Newport cigarette. “California, We’ve Got You Covered,” reads a flyer posted to the brand’s cigarette customers.
In 2022 RJ Reynolds sued the state of California for the flavour ban it had passed in a last-ditch effort to stop it from entering into force. The lawsuit was set in motion after voters in California chose to retain the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement (STAKE) Act, Senate Bill (SB) 793. SB 793 was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 as a measure to curtail youth uptake of tobacco products, including vapes, across the state.
Menthol flavour bans
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that banning menthol flavoured cigarettes could reduce smoking by 15%, by leading many smokers to quit or switching to less harmful nicotine products.
Published in BMJ’s Tobacco Control, the study concluded that a menthol ban would avoid 16,250 tobacco-related deaths per year by 2060. “This work is the culmination of a series of sequential projects aimed to assess the impact that a menthol ban could have on smoking, tobacco use and downstream health effects,” said study author Rafael Meza, a professor of epidemiology at U-M’s School of Public Health. “Our findings show that a menthol ban could result in considerable health gains and highlight the urgency for final approval and implementation of the ban.”
The findings were based on the data analysis and computational modeling infrastructure compiled as part of the Center for the Assessment of Tobacco Regulations. The research team used the Smoking and Vaping Model, a simulation model they had previously developed to study smoking and vaping behaviour with regards to menthol and nonmenthol cigarettes.
They found that in the presence of a menthol ban, combined menthol and nonmenthol cigarette smoking would decline by 15% by 2026. Deaths attributable to smoking and vaping were estimated to fall by about 5% and life-years lost by 8.8%—translating to 16,250 deaths per year averted and 11 million life-years gained (almost 300,000 per year) over a 40-year period.
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