The sale of menthol cigarettes is set to be prohibited in the UK from 20th May 2020.
This is under the new EU Tobacco Product Directive.
According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the ban on menthol-flavoured tobacco is “the latest step in a government tobacco control strategy designed to reduce youth uptake of smoking and to encourage and support quitting amongst smokers”.
The ban will also contribute toward the government ambition achieving a smoke-free England by 2030.
With many questions having arisen surrounding the topic ahead of the legislation coming into effect on Wednesday, here is everything we know about the ban on menthol cigarettes in the UK:
Why are menthol cigarettes being banned?
The move predominately aims to deter young people from taking up smoking by banning cigarettes with a “characterising” flavour, as opposed to solely tobacco.
According to research cited by ASH and the UK government, “Menthol cigarette use is significantly more common among newer, younger smokers.”
“There is greater risk of progression to regular smoking and nicotine dependence for those who start smoking menthol cigarettes compared to those starting with non-menthol cigarettes.”
“Initiating smoking with menthol cigarettes was associated with higher levels of nicotine dependence. This link to initiation is likely to be because menthol makes it easier to inhale the smoke into the lungs by creating a sweeter, milder, or “colder” smoke and by reducing/changing the harshness of the smoke.”
“It is more likely than not that the availability of menthol cigarettes increases the likelihood of experimentation and regular smoking beyond the anticipated prevalence if such flavoured cigarettes were not available.”
“The average number of cigarettes smoked by menthol smokers was greater than non-menthol smokers in adolescents, and menthol smokers had greater odds of reporting intent to continue smoking compared with non-menthol smoker.”
“Some youths smoke menthol products because they perceive them to be less harmful than non-menthol cigarettes.”
What is included in the ban?
In addition to the ban of menthol cigarettes, legislation also applies to capsule, click on, click & roll, crushball or dual menthol cigarettes, but does not apply to heated tobacco products, or e-cigarette products.
Skinny cigarettes will also be banned as part of the legislative change.
As stated by ASH Chief Executive, Deborah Arnott, this new legislation will mean that: “No person may produce or supply cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco with:
“(a) a filter, paper, package, capsule or other component containing flavourings;
“(b) a filter, paper or capsule containing tobacco or nicotine; or
“(c) a technical feature allowing the consumer to modify the smell, taste, or smoke intensity of the product.”
When will the ban start?
The ban will officially take effect on Wednesday 20th May 2020.
This legislation, which stems from the EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014, has been transposed into UK law and will remain in force after the end of the transition period for leaving the EU comes to an end on 31st December 2020.
The ban applies to both manufacturers and retailers.
There is no sell through period either, which means that retailers must have sold any remaining stock of menthol cigarettes by Wednesday.
For more information regarding the sale of menthol cigarettes in reatilers, please refer to official guidance from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) here.
“Aren’t menthol cigarettes supposed to be better for you though?”
Despite the belief held by some that menthol cigarettes are less harmful, there is no evidence to support this.
According to anti-smoking initiative, Smoke Free: “Like other cigarettes, menthol cigarettes harm nearly every organ in the body. They cause many diseases, including cancer and heart disease.”
“Some research shows that menthol cigarettes may be more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes.”
Speaking to Liverpool Echo, an ASH spokesperson, Amanda Sandford, further backed this up by stating that: “There is evidence that menthol cigarettes relax the airways and the flavour masks the harshness of the smoke, therefore younger people find it easier to smoke.”
“However, it is an absolute myth that menthol cigarettes are better for you.”
“All cigarettes are harmful and menthol cigarettes are just as dangerous as normal cigarettes.”
For further information on the menthol cigarette ban, please refer to official guidance on the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) website here.