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Close loopholes to support menthol cigarette ban say experts

Close loopholes to support menthol cigarette ban say experts
By Beth Gault
13 March 2024

One in seven smokers still report using menthol-flavoured cigarettes despite a ban according to a UCL study, prompting authors to call for loopholes to be closed.

The research, published in Tobacco Control today (13 March), found only 15% of respondents who still smoked menthol-flavoured cigarettes had purchasing from illicit sources, meaning that many are likely using legal accessories such as menthol-flavoured drops or filter balls.

Lead author Dr Vera Buss, from the UCL institute of epidemiology and health care, called on policymakers to ‘close loopholes’ and consider ‘strictly’ banning all menthol and similar ingredients in all tobacco-related products, including accessories, in order to reduce menthol-cigarette smoking.

Dr Buss said: ‘Our results suggest the tobacco industry may have used various loopholes in the law to continue to enable people to smoke menthol-flavoured cigarettes.

‘To effectively reduce the prevalence of menthol cigarette smoking to near zero, policymakers in the UK should consider closing current loopholes in the legislation.’

Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy, Dr Ian Walker, said:‘Smoking is still the leading cause of cancer, causing around 150 cancer cases across the UK every single day, so the number of people continuing to smoke menthol-flavoured cigarettes is deeply concerning.

‘These findings show why it’s vital that measures to tackle smoking don’t contain legal loopholes which can be exploited by the tobacco industry.’

He added that they support the government’s plans to include tobacco products in proposed legislation to raise the age of sale of tobacco.

This ‘will help prevent the next generation from ever taking up smoking in the first place’, he said.

The study surveyed 66,868 adults in England, Wales and Scotland in October 2020 and in March 2023.

It found that the number of smokers using menthol-flavoured cigarettes only dropped from 16% to 14% over the trial period. However, the number of young people smoking them fell by a quarter from 26% to 19%.

Legislation to ban cigarettes with characterising flavour was introduced in May 2020 to try and reduce smoking among young people. However, it did not ban menthol or derivatives as either ingredients or accessories.

It comes after nearly 400,000 vape kits are to be sent to smokers in England under the Government’s swap-to-stop scheme, with at least four ICBs taking part.

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