May 3 (UPI) — A ban on selling menthol cigarettes in England led to a 75% decline in use of the products among youths, a study published Tuesday found.
In a survey of more than 7,000 people ages 16 to 19 years, 3% of those who live in England reported smoking menthol cigarettes in August 2020, or three months after the country enacted a ban against their sale, the data, published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open, showed.
Before the ban, in February 2020, 9% of respondents reported smoking menthol cigarettes, down from 12% in 2018, the researchers said.
Among respondents in this age group who live in Canada, which banned sales of menthol cigarettes in 2017, 3% reported smoking the products in 2020, according to the researchers said.
However, in the United States, where sales of menthol cigarettes remain legal, just over 33% of respondents ages 16 to 19 years reported smoking them in 2020, the data showed.
“The U.S. cigarette market is quite different from England, but our findings, as well as evidence from Canada, where a national menthol ban has been in place since 2017, suggest that menthol cigarette bans can help to reduce menthol smoking,” study co-author Katie East told UPI in an email.
“However, we found that some youth still report smoking menthol cigarettes in England and Canada after the ban,” said East, a research associate at King’s College London.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it is proposing to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes in the United States.
The announcement begins a long regulatory process, which means menthol cigarettes being available for about two more years even if the ban is adopted, officials said.
The tobacco industry is expected to challenge the decision, and the agency already was sued by anti-tobacco groups for failing to implement a ban earlier.
Menthol is added to tobacco to improve flavor, which makes cigarettes and vaping devices more appealing to young people, research suggests.
Should a ban on the sale of menthol-flavored tobacco products go into effect in the United States, regulators need to “consider methods to circumvent” it to achieve the goal of reducing their use, East said.
This includes “the availability of menthol ‘accessories,’ such as flavor cards, filter tips and sprays that are added to regular cigarettes to create a menthol flavor and illicit purchasing,” she said.