IGTC partnered with colleagues at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit to conduct a study that examined the tobacco industry response to a ban on menthol cigarettes. We purchased a sample of cigarette packs in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta pre- and post-ban and in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia post-ban. Within each city, cigarette packs were purchased from a tobacco vendor near a sample of six high schools selected based on social and economic diversity. At five of the vendors, one of every unique menthol or menthol-like pack was purchased and at one vendor, every unique pack (regardless of menthol status) was purchased. Over three day periods in 2016, during the months of September (Alberta pre-ban), October (Nova Scotia post-ban) and December (Alberta post-ban) 2016, data collectors purchased 422 cigarette packs in Alberta and 76 packs in Nova Scotia.
Cigarette packs were coded as menthol based on the presence of “menthol” printed on the pack. Packs were coded as “menthol replacements” if they largely maintained the same color or design as menthol packs sold pre-ban.
Menthol cigarettes pose a serious public health problem. Menthol in cigarettes reduces the harshness of the smoke1. The availability of menthol cigarettes is associated with increased initiation of tobacco use and menthol smokers are less likely to quit smoking and more likely to relapse than non-menthol smokers1. In several countries, menthol smokers are more likely to be youth, women, and racial and ethnic minorities1. The World Health Organization recommends a ban on menthol in cigarettes1.
Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in the world to implement a ban on menthol cigarettes in May 2015 and a ban went into effect in Alberta in September 20152.
Study results can be accessed at:
Brown J, DeAtley T, Welding K, Schwartz R, Chaiton M, Kittner D, Cohen JE. Tobacco industry response to menthol cigarette bans in Alberta and Nova Scotia, Canada. Tob Control. 2016;26:e71-e74. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2016-053099.
Since the time of this study, several provinces have banned menthol cigarettes and in April 2017, Canada passed a nationwide ban on menthol in cigarettes, blunt wraps, and most cigars3. This ban will go into effect in October 20173.
Dr. Joanna Cohen holds the Bloomberg Professorship of Disease Prevention at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; this work was supported by the professorship endowment.