Study Finds Quitting Rates Climb With Menthol Cigarette Bans

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Menthol cigarette smokers quit at higher rates after bans, study finds

More than 20 percent of menthol cigarette smokers quit in the year after bans were instated, according to a study published Wednesday. The research suggests that banning the flavored cigarettes inspires quitters, half of whom switched to non-menthol cigarettes, while another quarter continued to smoke menthols.

The study analyzed the effects of past bans in Canada, the European Union, and states such as Massachusetts. "Our review found that a menthol ban will have a pro-equity impact, meaning that we expect smoking to reduce the most among Black individuals who smoke as compared to other racial or ethnic groups," said lead author Sarah Mills, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina's school of public health.

An FDA push to impose such a ban on the federal level has encountered opposition from retailers and tobacco companies. Political concerns have also been raised in an election year, with questions as to whether a policy would alienate Black voters.

Previous research has also indicated that Black smokers stand to gain the most from a ban, as smoking rates could significantly decline among those communities. A proposed ban has faced opposition from tobacco companies and retailers, as well as concerns of critics that it could lead to increased illicit trafficking and police encounters with Black smokers.

The study's authors did not see a noticeable increase in seizures of illicit cigarettes in Canada after its nationwide ban. The Biden administration delayed a decision on the issue until March, leading public health experts to stage a "menthol funeral" outside the White House to draw attention to smoking-related deaths. Former surgeons general have also urged the White House to finalize the ban, with one stating "save lives," and not be "distracted by the tobacco industry and its apologists."

An advocacy group released a poll indicating that Black voters would not diminish their support for the president if a ban was instated. "This new data proves what we already know to be true — Black voters want to see a menthol ban," said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP.