Tobacco industry tactics to circumvent and undermine the TPD menthol ban in the UK
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Tobacco Control Research Group, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom
Publication date: 2020-10-22
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2020;6(Supplement):A29
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The World Health Organisation recommends banning menthol cigarettes because of menthol’s role in the initiation and continuance of smoking. Across the world, the tobacco industry has attempted to block, stall, limit or circumvent legislation aimed at restricting menthol sales. Menthol cigarettes are critical products for the tobacco industry; one in ten cigarettes globally are menthol. The European market alone has been estimated to be worth nearly €10 billion. A ban on menthol cigarettes, agreed in 2014, is coming into force in May 2020 in the EU and UK.

To identify trends in the European menthol cigarette market (flavoured tobacco and capsules); how the tobacco industry reacted to the menthol ban in the UK; loopholes in existing legislation, to enhance tobacco control legislation in future.

Secondary analysis of market share data identified trends in the European menthol cigarette market. Documentary evidence (industry documents, websites and retail publications) was collated as part of ongoing monitoring of industry activity and analysed to understand tobacco industry activities.

Despite the incoming ban, menthol’s market share grew in the UK but not in the EU overall (2014 to 2018). The tobacco industry in the UK acted in three ways: retailers were encouraged to sell menthol cigarettes up to the ban despite a long preparation period; new products in the UK were launched that were legal after the ban, including menthol flavoured cigarillos, pack inserts and roll-your-own tobacco filters; and menthol flavoured next-generation products were promoted as alternatives to quitting.

Tobacco companies have used product innovation as a tactic to circumvent the menthol ban. We recommend future legislation prohibits the continued sale of new forms of menthol tobacco products and accessories. Long preparation periods for menthol bans are not necessarily used to taper sales and thus can be omitted.

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