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No surge in illicit cigarettes after implementation of menthol ban in Nova Scotia
  1. Michal Stoklosa
  1. Correspondence to Michal Stoklosa, Economic and Health Policy Research, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA; michal.stoklosa{at}


Background In May 2015, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban menthol cigarettes specifically. The tobacco industry warned that ‘the primary effect of this law will be to increase the illegal tobacco market in Nova Scotia’. This is the first attempt to examine the impact of the menthol ban on trends in illicit cigarettes.

Data and methods Data on the number of illicit cigarettes seized in Nova Scotia covering the period from 2007/2008 to 2017/2018 was obtained from the Provincial Tax Commission. Data from before and after the ban are compared.

Results According to the local authorities, while the enforcement efforts in Nova Scotia have not declined, the number of seized illicit cigarettes declined significantly, from >60 000 cartons in 2007/2008 to <10 000 cartons in 2017/2018. Since the menthol ban, the seizure volume remained stable, with no statistically significant difference in the number of cigarettes seized before and after the menthol ban (t=−0.71, p=0.55). There were only a few small seizures of menthol cigarettes in the year following the ban, after which there have been no further seizures of menthol cigarettes.

Discussion Contrary to the tobacco industry’s assertions, there was no surge in illicit cigarettes after the 2015 ban on menthol cigarette sales in Nova Scotia. Credible, industry-independent evidence on illicit cigarette trade is desperately needed to support the implementation of tobacco control policies.

  • illegal tobacco products
  • tobacco industry
  • public policy

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  • Contributors MS is the sole author of this report.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

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