The FSFW(1) was set up to combat the 8 million annual death toll due to smoking and the use of other tobacco products. “Disruptive technologies are available to end combustion and substantially reduce the risks associated with combustible cigarettes, by decoupling nicotine from the lethal smoke.”
In May last year, the EU banned the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes in the Union’s 26 member countries and the United Kingdom.
“This regulatory move was predicated on the view that such a ban would discourage people from starting smoking or encourage existing smokers to quit—thus contributing to general public health.”
The FSFW conducted two surveys to see if the ban had achieved its desired outcome. The organisation looked at awareness of the ban and intention to quit or switch, and then looked at actual behaviour post implementation.
Despite large scale advertising, only 71% of smokers said they were aware a ban on menthol products was coming into effect. Following the ban, still only 74% were aware of it.
Initially, just 12% of smokers said the ban would make them give up cigarettes. The survey looking at the actual impact of the ban reported a dismal 8% of respondents saying that they had quit smoking completely.
“Across the eight countries, an average of 40% of respondents indicated that they reduced their menthol cigarette consumption, but either continued or increased their consumption of non-menthol varieties. Other common actions taken as a result of the ban were: switching to menthol products not affected by the ban (18%); buying menthol cigarettes from other sources (13%); and buying products to manually add a menthol flavour to regular tobacco products (13%).”
The FSFW says that the most unexpected outcome of the menthol ban survey was the relatively large number of smokers opting to source “mentholising” products to add to their cigarettes. This included things like menthol flavour cards, filter tips, capsule tubes, and sprays.
57% of respondents who said they planned on switching to an alternative nicotine product actually did so, but the product varied by country. The highest percentage of switching to vaping was observed in Poland (67%), followed by the UK (57%).
The FSFW’s work shows that the ban has failed in its single objective of reducing smoking. While it is good that many British smokers switched to vaping, the EU’s approach to tobacco harm reduction is still preventing more successful switch attempts in its member countries.
- Foundation for a Smoke-Free World - https://www.smokefreeworld.org
- EU Menthol Cigarette Ban Survey - https://www.smokefreeworld.org/eu-menthol-cigarette-ban-survey-2/