Media Advisory: Ban on menthol flavoured cigarettes comes into force on 20 May 2020
ASH Media Advisory: Ban on menthol flavoured cigarettes comes into force on 20 May 2020
From Wednesday 20th May 2020, the sale of menthol flavoured cigarettes will be prohibited.
Retailer organisations have complained about the lack of a sell-through period. However, the transition period for ban on the sale of menthol flavours has been three years longer than that for all other characterising flavours, which were prohibited from sale from 20 May 2017 (see detail on the regulations set out below).
The legislation stems from the EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014. It has been transposed into UK law and will remain in force after the transition period for leaving the EU comes to an end on 31 December 2020.
The ban on menthol-flavoured tobacco is the latest step in a Government tobacco control strategy designed to reduce youth uptake of smoking and to encourage and support quitting amongst smokers, helping achieve the Government ambition to achieve a smokefree England by 2030. Research on menthol, cited by the Government, has demonstrated that:
- Menthol cigarette use is significantly more common among newer, younger smokers.
- There is greater risk of progression to regular smoking and nicotine dependence for those who start smoking menthol cigarettes compared to those starting with non-menthol cigarettes.
- Initiating smoking with menthol cigarettes was associated with higher levels of nicotine dependence. This link to initiation is likely to be because menthol makes it easier to inhale the smoke into the lungs by creating a sweeter, milder, or “colder” smoke and by reducing/changing the harshness of the smoke.
- It is more likely than not that the availability of menthol cigarettes increases the likelihood of experimentation and regular smoking beyond the anticipated prevalence if such flavoured cigarettes were not available.
- The average number of cigarettes smoked by menthol smokers was greater than non-menthol smokers in adolescents, and menthol smokers had greater odds of reporting intent to continue smoking compared with non-menthol smoker.
- Some youths smoke menthol products because they perceive them to be less harmful than non-menthol cigarettes.
There is evidence that prohibiting the sale of menthol containing cigarettes will be effective both in reducing youth initiation and in encouraging quitting:
- A 2013 report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction and decreased success in quitting smoking.
- A systematic review of the evidence found that prohibiting menthol is likely to significantly reduce youth uptake.
- Evidence from Ontario in Canada shows an increased number of smokers quit following introduction of a ban on menthol, compared to the number who had reported an intention to quit before the ban was introduced.
Tobacco industry behaviour
- The tobacco industry has capitalised on these effects of menthol in cigarettes, to market menthol products at young people. To quote an internal memo from British American Tobacco subsidiary Brown & Williamson revealed in litigation, “Menthol brands have been said to be good starter products because new smokers appear to know that menthol covers up some of the tobacco taste, and they already know what the menthol tastes like, vis-a-vis candy.“
- A systematic review of the tobacco industry’s marketing of menthol cigarettes has concluded that the industry knew menthol was perceived as ‘healthier’ than other cigarettes and capitalised on this to target consumers: “Marketing emphasising menthol attracts consumers who may not otherwise progress to regular smoking, including young, inexperienced users and those who find ‘regular’ cigarettes undesirable.”
- The tobacco industry has developed new ways to try and subvert the regulations on menthol cigarettes. For example, in January 2020 Imperial Brands launched new ‘Rizla infusions’ cards which can be inserted into cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco to produce a menthol flavour. Japan Tobacco International has launched a new range of menthol flavoured cigarillos which are exempt from the regulations.
The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath (UK) can provide additional evidence and comment on tobacco industry activity around the ban. Contact: R.Hiscock@exposetobacco.org and D.OHare@exposetobacco.org
EU Tobacco Products Directive
The 2014 revised EU Tobacco Products Directive came into force in 2016 and was transposed into UK Law through the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR). It is through these regulations that the TPD is implemented and enforced.
Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR)
Prohibition of flavours see Part 3, section 15 of the TRPR:
No flavoured cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco etc.
15.-(1) No person may produce or supply cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco with a characterising flavour.
(2) No person may produce or supply cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco with
a) a filter, paper, package, capsule or other component containing flavourings;
b) a filter, paper or capsule containing tobacco or nicotine; or
c) a technical feature allowing the consumer to modify the smell, taste, or smoke intensity of the product.
Definition of characterising flavour see Part 1 section 2:
“characterising flavour” means a smell or taste other than one of tobacco which—
(a) is clearly noticeable before or during consumption of the product; and
(b) results from an additive or a combination of additives, including, but not limited to, fruit, spice, herbs, alcohol, candy, menthol or vanilla;
Transitional provisions for menthol see Part 10 section 56 of the regulations:
(3) The provisions of regulation 15 (flavoured cigarettes etc.) do not apply to menthol cigarettes until 20th May 2020.
 Forecourt Trader. Retailers reminded about coming ban on menthol cigarettes. April 2020.
 Department of Health and Social Care. Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s. 2019.
 Department of Health. Equalities Analysis: Tobacco Products Directive (Directive 2014/40/EU). July 2015.
 Chaiton M., Schwartz R., Cohen J., Soule E., Eissenberg T. Association of Ontario’s Ban on Menthol Cigarettes With Smoking Behavior 1 Month After Implementation. JAMA Intern Med. 2018; 178(5): 710–711. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.8650
 Public Health Law Center. United States of America v. Philip Morris USA, INC. Civil Action No. 99-2496 (GK). 2006. (p. 1051)
 Anderson SJ. Marketing of menthol cigarettes and consumer perceptions: a review of tobacco industry documents. Tob Control. 2011; 20 Suppl 2:ii20-8.
 Convenience Store. Imperial launches Rizla flavour cards ahead of menthol cigarette ban. December 2019. Online. Accessed May 2020.
 Bloomberg. Europe’s Menthol Ban Has Tobacco Firms Thinking Outside the Pack. February 2020. Online. Accessed May 2020.