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Should flavours be banned in cigarettes and e-cigarettes? Evidence on adult smokers and recent quitters from a discrete choice experiment
  1. John Buckell1,
  2. Joachim Marti2,
  3. Jody L Sindelar1
  1. 1 School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  2. 2 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP), CHUV, Université de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Buckell, School of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA; john.buckell{at}


Objectives To provide the policy-relevant estimates of impacts of alternative flavour bans on preferences and demand for cigarettes and e-cigarettes in adult smokers and recent quitters.

Methods A best–best discrete choice experiment (DCE) is used to elicit smokers’ and recent quitters’ preferences for flavours, price, health impact and nicotine level in cigarettes and e-cigarettes. Choice of tobacco products and an opt-out option were examined. An efficient design yielded 36 choice sets. Exploded logit choice models were estimated. Flavour bans are modelled by restricting flavour coefficients in the estimated model.

Setting and participants A sample of 2031 adult smokers and recent quitters was recruited to complete an online survey and DCE.

Results Current smokers and recent quitters, on average, prefer cigarettes and menthol cigarettes over flavoured e-cigarettes. However, there is substantial preference heterogeneity by younger adults (ages 18–25), race/ethnicity and respondents with higher education. Our predictions suggest that a ban on menthol cigarettes would produce the greatest reduction in the choice of cigarettes (−5.2%), but with an accompanying increase in e-cigarettes use (3.8%). In contrast, banning flavours in e-cigarettes, while allowing menthol in cigarettes would result in the greatest increase in the selection of cigarettes (8.3%), and a decline in the use of e-cigarettes (−11.1%). A ban on all flavours, but tobacco in both products would increase ‘opting-out’ the most (5.2%) but would also increase choice of cigarettes (2.7%) and decrease choice of e-cigarettes (−7.9%).

Conclusions A ban on flavoured e-cigarettes alone would likely increase the choice of cigarettes in smokers, arguably the more harmful way of obtaining nicotine, whereas a ban on menthol cigarettes alone would likely be more effective in reducing the choice of cigarettes. A ban on all flavours in both products would likely reduce the smoking/vaping rates, but the use of cigarettes would be higher than in the status quo. Policy-makers should use these results to guide the choice of flavour bans in light of their stance on the potential health impacts both products.

  • electronic nicotine delivery devices
  • public policy
  • economics

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  • Contributors JB: conducted the analyses, contributed to the drafting of the manuscript. JM and JLS: contributed to the drafting of the manuscript, advised on the data analyses. All authors: designed the survey, designed the experiment, interpreted the findings, reviewed and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding Research reported in this publication was supported by grant number P50DA036151 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP).

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Food and Drug Administration.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Yale University Human Subjects Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.