Want to make smoking less attractive to young people? Try taking menthol cigarettes off the market, a new analysis suggests.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned flavors in cigarettes in 2009 because flavors appeal to youth and young adults, and the agency recently announced that it also intends to ban menthol in cigarettes.
To assess what effect a ban on menthol cigarettes would have, Georgetown University researchers reviewed 24 studies on the impacts of restrictions on flavors in cigarettes.
Six of the studies examined menthol bans implemented across Canada, 12 assessed the potential effects of hypothetical menthol bans in Canada, the United States and Europe, and six looked at prior bans of non-menthol flavors in cigarettes in Canada and the United States.
Based on their review, the researchers concluded that 11 percent to 45 percent of current U.S. menthol smokers might quit smoking in response to a menthol cigarette ban, while 15 percent to 30 percent of menthol smokers might switch to e-cigarettes.
Menthol smokers quitting or switching to e-cigarettes are more likely to be young adults, and a menthol cigarette ban may reduce the number of youth who start smoking by 6 percent, according to the researchers.
They also found that while overall compliance with the menthol ban in Canada was high, studies into non-menthol flavor bans in the United States found that some retailers continued to sell banned products.
The review was published July 8 in the journal BMC Public Health.
"Further research is needed to determine the potential influence of e-cigarette alternatives and their availability to consumers, and should consider the effects of menthol cigarette bans that have already been implemented in local areas of the U.S.," study lead author and Georgetown professor David Levy said in a journal news release.
"Nevertheless, the evidence to date indicates that a menthol cigarette ban, especially if implemented nationally with high compliance, provides an important opportunity to improve public health by reducing smoking-attributable diseases," Levy said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a guide for quitting smoking.
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