Menthol Bans Reduce the Proportion of Youth Who Use Menthol Flavored Tobacco Products

This study analyzed data from the International Tobacco Control Youth Tobacco and Vaping Surveys to compare rates of menthol tobacco product use among 7067 people aged 16–19 years with current smoking. Participants were from: Canada, where menthol is banned; the United Kingdom (UK), where a menthol ban was implemented during the observation window; and the United States (US), where menthol products are available.

  • Menthol smoking was more prevalent among youth in the US than the UK (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 5.58).
  • The proportion of youth with menthol cigarette use in Canada (3% in 2018 to 2% in 2020) and the US (34% in 2018 and 2020) were stable throughout the observation period.
  • The proportion of youth who used menthol cigarettes in the UK decreased from 9–12% before the ban to 3% after the ban.

Comments: Manufacturers add menthol to tobacco products to make their taste more appealing, making smoking and vaping easier for people who are new to it. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, youth are more likely to try a menthol cigarette as their first cigarette, and those who first start with a menthol cigarette are more likely to continue smoking. Public health decisions require balancing the rights of adults to access addictive products with the potential harms to youth. This study sheds light on that balance.

Sharon Levy, MD

Reference: East KA, Reid JL, Burkhalter R, et al. Evaluating the outcomes of the menthol cigarette ban in England by comparing menthol cigarette smoking among youth in England, Canada, and the US, 2018–2020. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(5):e2210029.

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