Objective To test how a potential US ban of menthol products or replacement with ‘green’ products and ads could influence tobacco purchases.
Methods US adult menthol smokers (N=1197) were recruited via an online panel and randomly assigned to complete a shopping task in one of four versions (experimental conditions) of the RTI iShoppe virtual store: (1) no ban, (2) replacement of menthol cigarettes and ads with green replacement versions, (3) menthol cigarette ban and (4) all menthol tobacco product ban. Logistic regressions assessed the effect of condition on tobacco purchases.
Results Participants in the menthol cigarette ban (OR=0.67, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.92) and all menthol product ban conditions (OR=0.60, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.83) were less likely to purchase cigarettes of any type than participants in the no ban condition. Participants in the green replacement (OR=1.74, 95% CI 1.13 to 2.70), menthol cigarette ban (OR=3.40, 95% CI 2.14 to 5.41) and all menthol product ban conditions (OR=3.14, 95% CI 1.97 to 5.01) were more likely to purchase a cigarette brand different from their usual brand than participants in the no ban condition.
Conclusions Our findings suggest that menthol bans could have great public health impact by reducing cigarette purchases. However, tobacco marketing strategies, such as creating green (or other replacement) versions of menthol cigarettes, may undermine public health benefits of a menthol ban by prompting purchases of non-menthol cigarettes. Our findings highlight the importance of taking tobacco marketing tactics into consideration in tobacco product regulation.
- packaging and labeling
- advertising and promotion
- public policy
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Contributors All authors contributed to the study design and development of the survey instrument. JG, BB, AEK and JMN contributed to analyses. All authors contributed to the writing and revision of the manuscript.
Funding This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse and the US Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products (grant P50DA036128).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval RTI International IRB approval numbers: STUDY00020010 MOD00000189 for 20010 MOD000000211 for 20010 MOD00000230 for 20010.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement Data are available upon reasonable request.