Article Text

Proliferation of ‘non-menthol’ cigarettes amid a state-wide flavour ban
  1. Leah R Meza1,
  2. Artur Galimov1,
  3. Steve Sussman1,2,3,
  4. Maciej Lukasz Goniewicz4,
  5. Michelle K Page4,
  6. Adam Leventhal1,3
  1. 1Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA
  2. 2Department of Psychology, and School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  3. 3Institute for Addiction Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  4. 4Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Leah R Meza, Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90089-9239, USA; leahmedi{at}usc.edu

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Tobacco flavour bans are becoming more prevalent across states and localities in the USA. In August 2020, the California state legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 793, which ‘prohibits a tobacco retailer, or any of the tobacco retailer’s agents or employees, from selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavoured tobacco product or a tobacco product flavour enhancer’, with the exception of hookah tobacco/shisha and premium cigars.1 ‘Flavoured tobacco products’ are defined in the bill as any tobacco product containing a constituent that imparts a characterising flavour other than tobacco.2 However, the bill faced legal challenges and a signature-gathering campaign led by the tobacco industry, leading to its inclusion on the ballot for the general election (Proposition 31). On 8 November 2022, voters in the US state of California passed Proposition 31 (with 63.4% of the vote) and approved SB 793.

Since this policy was enacted, and with ample time for a response, the tobacco industry began extensively marketing cigarette varieties with cooling features explicitly labelled such as ‘non-menthol’ at tobacco retailers in California.3 (Note that the term ‘non-menthol’ in the remainder of the manuscript refers to cigarettes explicitly labelled as ‘non-menthol’ vs broadly referring those that are not mentholated.) Non-menthol ‘cooling’ cigarettes have packaging that resembles traditional menthol cigarettes and use colours (eg, bright green and blue) typically associated with the marketing of various types of mentholated products.4 5 Wording on non-menthol packaging also resembles that which is commonly used to market flavoured tobacco, including menthol (eg, flavourful, crisp, smooth; see figure 1).5 New marketing for non-menthol products has contained slogans such as, ‘the non-menthol for menthol smokers’ and “fresh intensity made just for you”.3 There is documentation of cigarette …

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Footnotes

  • Contributors All authors took an active role in the manuscript. LRM, MLG and AL conceptualised and designed the study. LRM collected the data. LRM and AG analysed and interpreted the data. LRM drafted the initial manuscript. LRM, AG, SS, MLG, MKP and AL revised the manuscript for important intellectual content. SS, MLG and AL obtained funding for this study, and AL is responsible for the overall content. All authors approved the final manuscript submitted.

  • Funding Research reported in this publication was supported by National Cancer Institute and FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) Awards (NCI/FDA Grants #U54CA180905 and #U54CA228110).

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or the Food and Drug Administration.

  • Competing interests MLG received a research grant from Pfizer and served as a member of a scientific advisory board to Johnson & Johnson. All other authors have no competing interests to declare.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.