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Profile of menthol cigarette smokers in the months following the removal of these products from the market: a cross-sectional population survey in England


Introduction In May 2020, the EU Tobacco Products Directive ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes was implemented in England. This study examined the prevalence of menthol cigarette smoking after the ban, according to sociodemographic and smoking characteristics.

Methods Cross-sectional data came from a representative survey of current smokers (18+) in England (unweighted n=2681) between July 2020 and June 2021. The weighted prevalence of menthol cigarette smoking as a proportion of total cigarette smoking was calculated, log-binomial regression explored trends over time, and χ2 statistics assessed the relationship between menthol smoking, sociodemographic and smoking characteristics. Sources of purchase of menthol cigarettes were explored.

Results Between July 2020 and June 2021, 15.7% (95% CI 14.5 to 17.1) of smokers reported smoking menthol cigarettes. The fitted non-linear trend supported no initial change followed by a possible reduction across April–June 2021 and fit the data better than linear and null (no change) models (χ2(2)=2519.7, p=0.06; χ2(3)=2519.7, p=0.006). Menthol cigarette smoking was more common among younger groups (16–24=25.2%; 25–34=19.9%) and women (19.4%). Menthol cigarette smokers showed lower cigarette dependence compared with other smokers. Past-6-month purchases of menthol cigarettes from any illicit or cross-border source declined from 30.1% in the last 6 months of 2020 to 17.5% in the first 6 months of 2021.

Conclusions A substantial minority of current smokers in England reported menthol cigarette smoking between July 2020 and June 2021, despite the ban, possibly reflecting mitigation of restrictions by a variety of licit means, such as legal menthol accessories. The reduction in menthol smoking across April–June 2021 warrants further monitoring.

  • surveillance and monitoring
  • public policy
  • illegal tobacco products

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