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Association between cigarette sales in the USA and FDA’s announcement of its intention to prohibit menthol as a characterising flavour in cigarettes


Introduction On 29 April 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its intention to prohibit menthol as a characterising flavour in cigarettes.

Methods We assessed the changes in cigarette sales associated with the FDA’s announcement using interrupted time series analysis based on monthly retail point-of-sale data on cigarettes from the NielsenIQ Local Trade Area (LTA) data from September 2019 to April 2022. Main outcome variables included LTA-level monthly menthol and non-menthol cigarette sales per 1000-persons.

Results Monthly cigarette sales were declining before the FDA’s announcement (menthol vs non-menthol: −1.68 (95% CI −1.92, −1.45) vs −3.14 (95% CI −3.33, −2.96) packs per 1000-persons). Monthly menthol cigarette sales increased immediately in May 2021 after the FDA’s announcement by 6.44 packs per 1000-persons (95% CI 3.83, 9.05). Analysis stratified by LTA-level racial/ethnic compositions showed that LTAs with a relatively higher proportion of non-Hispanic Black population (>8.94%) experienced higher spike in menthol cigarette sales in May 2021 immediately after the announcement and higher post-announcement 12-month menthol cigarette sales than expected.

Conclusions Areas with a relatively higher proportion of non-Hispanic Black population are potentially at risk of experiencing increased burden of menthol cigarette consumption. Targeted community level cessation support in non-Hispanic Black majority areas may help mitigate the growing burden of menthol cigarette smoking and improve health equity. The findings of this study also suggest that FDA’s prompt finalisation and enforcement of such ban may help avoid extending the increased burden of menthol cigarette consumptions in non-Hispanic Black majority areas.

  • Public policy
  • Disparities
  • Surveillance and monitoring

Data availability statement

The NeilsenIQ LTA data were provided to the authors under an agreement with the Nielsen Consumer, LLC and are not publicly available. The authors are not authorised to share the underlying data without permission from the Nielsen Consumer, LLC.

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