Smoking prevalence and purchasing of menthol cigarettes since the menthol flavour ban in Great Britain: a population-based survey between 2020 and 2023

Vera Helen Buss, Harry Tattan-Birch, Sharon E Cox, Linda Bauld, Lion Shahab, Jamie Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Menthol cigarettes have been banned in Great Britain (GB) since May 2020. Still, menthol accessories and unlabelled cigarettes perceived as mentholated are available, and people can buy menthol cigarettes overseas or illicitly. This study assessed: trends in smoking menthol cigarettes among all adults and 18-24-year-olds in GB between October 2020 and March 2023; trends in and differences between England, Scotland and Wales during the same period and purchase sources among people smoking menthol versus non-flavoured cigarettes.

Methods: Population-weighted data were from a monthly cross-sectional survey of adults in GB. Among people smoking cigarettes, we calculated the proportion smoking menthol cigarettes across all adults and 18-24-year-olds, and prevalence ratios (PR) between the first and last quarter. We also calculated the proportions of people smoking menthol/non-flavoured cigarettes by purchase source (including illicit sources).

Results: In the first quarter, 16.2% of adults smoking cigarettes reported menthol cigarette smoking with little to no decline throughout the study (PR 0.85, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.01), while it declined among 18-24-year-olds (PR 0.75, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.89). The prevalence of menthol cigarette smoking fell by two-thirds in Wales (PR 0.36, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.62) but remained relatively stable in England (PR 0.88, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.06) and Scotland (PR 0.94, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.53). The main purchasing sources were licit (93.9%), 14.8% reported illicit sources and 11.5% cross-border purchases, without notable differences from people smoking non-flavoured cigarettes.

Conclusions: Roughly one million adults in GB still smoke menthol cigarettes and, with the exception of Wales and young people, there were no noteworthy changes in the post-ban period. There was no indication that the overall persistence of menthol smoking was driven by illicit purchases.

Keywords: illegal tobacco products; non-cigarette tobacco products; public policy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Open
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2024

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