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Thank you for the corrections and for acknowledging the omission. The additional analysis performed by ITC is greatly appreciated and provides further insight into the impact of both interventions. Although unstated, Canada’s regional characterizing flavour bans contributed significantly to the development of a national menthol additive ban as chronicled by the U.S. Tobacco Control Legal Consortium . I look forward to reading the full analysis when published.
1. Kerry Cork, Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, Leading from Up North: How Canada Is Solving the Menthol Tobacco Problem (2017). https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/tclc...
NOT PEER REVIEWED
In his comment, Les Hagen brings up an important distinction between two types of restrictions on menthol: a menthol additive ban, and a menthol characterizing flavour ban. Canada's menthol ban across the provinces did indeed involve both types. Between May 2015 and July 2017, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador implemented characterizing flavour bans, whereas New Brunswick implemented a menthol additive ban . When the Federal Government implemented a menthol additive ban in October 2017  , it applied only to the remaining provinces—British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba—as well as Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Thus, the "menthol cigarette ban" in Canada is a mixture of the two types.
Our article  evaluated the impact of menthol bans implemented between the 2016 and 2018 waves of the Canadian arm of the ITC Four Country Smoking and Vaping Surveys. Hagen incorrectly stated that "the analysis was performed exclusively on provincial characterizing flavour bans." In fact, the provinces evaluated in our study included both those that implemented characterizing flavour bans (Quebec, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador) and those that implemented the Federal menthol additive ban (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba).
In our original study, we did not test for differences between the two kinds of bans, beca...
In our original study, we did not test for differences between the two kinds of bans, because the number of menthol smokers across the seven provinces in our evaluation study was low (N=138). However, we did report that there were no statistically significant differences in smoking cessation outcomes between menthol and non-menthol smokers across the seven provinces, consistent with the possibility that there were no differences between a characterizing flavour ban and an additive ban. Hagen's comment did prompt us to do the explicit analysis, comparing the four provinces with characterizing flavour bans to the three provinces with menthol additive bans.
Consistent with our previously reported findings of no differences across the seven provinces, the explicit comparison found no significant differences in smoking cessation outcomes among daily and among all smokers between menthol smokers and non-menthol smokers in provinces with menthol additive bans vs provinces with menthol characterizing flavour bans. Thus, the findings do indeed, as Hagen aimed to highlight, point to the positive impact of the characterizing flavour ban, being not different from that of the national menthol additive ban ─ with the caution that the small sample sizes afforded low statistical power to test for differences.
Our follow-up analysis also showed that a significantly higher percentage of pre-ban menthol smokers reported that they still smoked menthols at follow-up in provinces with menthol characterizing flavour bans, compared with provinces with menthol additive bans (25.3% vs 8.4%, p=0.02). We will describe these results more fully in a forthcoming paper.
There are complexities in the distinctions between a characterizing flavour ban and an additive ban. Each would call upon different kinds of regulatory oversight. For example, the European Union's characterizing flavour ban under the 2016 Tobacco Products Directive  required the establishment of an Independent Advisory Panel to determine whether a particular tobacco product has a characterizing flavour, with input from a technical group of sensory and chemical assessors, whose methodology is "based on a comparison of the smelling properties of the test product with those of reference products."  In contrast, regulating an additive ban requires product testing to determine the presence of a banned additive.
As jurisdictions consider measures to eliminate the well-documented impact of menthol in increasing attractiveness and reducing harshness of combustible tobacco products , these differences in regulatory capacity need to be considered.
1. Canadian Cancer Society. Overview summary of federal/provincial/territorial tobacco control legislation in Canada, 2017. Available: http://convio.cancer.ca/documents/Legislative_Overview-Tobacco_Control-F...
2. Government of Canada. Order amending the schedule of the tobacco act (menthol), 2017. Available: http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2017/2017-04-05/html/sor-dors45-eng.php
3. Chung-Hall J, Fong GT, Meng G, et al. Evaluating the impact of menthol cigarette bans on cessation and smoking behaviours in Canada: longitudinal findings from the Canadian arm of the 2016–2018 ITC Four Country Smoking and Vaping Surveys. Tobacco Control Published Online First: 05 April 2021. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-056259
4. European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Directive 2014/40/ EU. Off J Eur Union 2014. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/dir_201440_e...
5. European Commission. Technical Group of sensory and chemical assessors. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/products/characterising_flavours/tec...
6. Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee. Menthol cigarettes and public health: review of the scientific evidence and recommendations. Rockville, MD: Food and Drug Administration, 2011.
NOT PEER REVIEWED
This article does not distinguish between characterizing flavour (menthol) bans that were implemented in Canadian provinces between 2015 and 2017 and the implementation of a national ban on menthol additives in Canada in October 2017. Although unreported, the analysis was performed exclusively on provincial characterizing flavour bans. This significant distinction should be reported to ensure that researchers and policy makers are aware of the potential impact of a characterizing flavour ban and to ensure that this policy measure is not dismissed or discounted.