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Massachusetts menthol ban brings drop in cigarette sales, study finds

Massachusetts menthol ban brings drop in cigarette sales, study finds
A ban of menthol-flavored cigarettes in Massachusetts led to a decline in all cigarette sales in the state, according to a new study. File photo by underworld/Shutterstock

Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Sales of all cigarettes in Massachusetts declined by up to 33% after the state instituted a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes, an analysis published Tuesday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.

The ban, put into effect in June 2020, led to a roughly 300% drop in sales of packs of menthol-flavored cigarettes in the state by July of last year, the data showed.

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Over the same period, cigarette sales in 33 states that did not institute a menthol flavor ban fell by 8%, while sales of menthol-flavored cigarettes declined by 3%, the researchers said.

"We learn from Massachusetts that a menthol flavor ban effectively reduces both menthol and overall cigarette sales," study co-author Samuel Asare told UPI in an email.

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"Smokers who strongly preferred these flavors needed to quit or switch to non-flavored cigarettes," said Asare, principal scientist for tobacco control research for the American Cancer Society.

A 2013 FDA report found that menthol cigarettes make it easier for people to start smoking and harder for them to quit.

In 2020, the American Medical Association, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health sued the Food and Drug Administration, urging it to take action based on the findings of the report.

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Last year, the agency proposed a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes and cigars that would take effect in April.

In August, the agency also banned more than 55,000 flavored e-cigarette products.

However, before these federal bans were instituted, Massachusetts became the first and only state to implement a statewide comprehensive ban on menthol-flavored tobacco products.

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For this study, Asare and his colleagues at the American Cancer Society compared cigarette sales in Massachusetts during the one year after the flavor ban with those of the three-year period before it was enacted.

They then compared sales trends in the state to those in 33 others that did not have similar restrictions, they said.

In addition to the steep decline in sales of menthol-flavored cigarettes in Massachusetts during the first year the ban was in place, sales of unflavored cigarettes fell by 7% over the same period, the data showed.

"The study findings of a substantial decline in menthol and overall cigarette sales suggest a greater proportion of smokers might quit compared to those who possibly switched to non-flavored cigarettes," Asare said.

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