Responses to Real-World and Hypothetical Menthol Flavor Bans Among US Young Adults Who Smoke Menthol Cigarettes
Tam J., Jimenez-Mendoza E., Buckell J., Sindelar J., Meza R.
Abstract Introduction Menthol cigarette bans have been implemented in some US states and localities, and a federal ban is being proposed by the FDA. This study asks how young adults who use menthol cigarettes respond to changes in menthol cigarette availability. Aims and Methods An online survey of young adults ages 18–34 who reported smoking menthol cigarettes on ≥7 of 30 days around Thanksgiving 2019 (n = 734), oversampling Massachusetts—the first state with a menthol ban. Participants reported their tobacco use behavior following real-world menthol cigarette bans or predicted their behavior under a hypothetical federal ban. Results Most respondents who exclusively smoked versus dual used with e-cigarettes continued smoking/using combustible tobacco following real-world bans (95.3% vs. 86.9%), accessing menthol cigarettes from other jurisdictions. Fewer who smoked exclusively responded by using e-cigarettes compared to those who dual used (3.9% vs. 43.7%). Quitting all tobacco use (ie, no smoking, vaping, or any tobacco use) was uncommon for both groups (3.6% vs. 9.0%). Under a hypothetical ban, majorities of those who exclusively smoke and who dual use predicted they would continue smoking (72.2% vs. 71.8%); fewer who smoke exclusively would use e-cigarettes compared to those who dual use (14.7% vs. 41.4%). Those who smoke exclusively were more likely to report quitting all tobacco compared to those who dual use (29.6% vs. 12.4%). Conclusions Under real-world and hypothetical menthol cigarette bans, most respondents continued smoking. However, more young adults continued smoking following real-world bans, reflecting the limitations of local/state restrictions when menthol cigarettes are available in other jurisdictions. Implications This survey asked young adults who use menthol cigarettes how they responded to real-world changes in the availability of menthol cigarettes; 89% reported continuing to smoke. Those who smoked exclusively were far less likely to respond by switching to e-cigarettes compared to people who dual used both products. Under a hypothetical federal menthol cigarette ban, 72% of young adults predicted that they would continue smoking. Quitting all tobacco was less common in the real-world scenario compared to the hypothetical ban. Access to menthol cigarettes in other jurisdictions and flavored cigars likely dampen the public health benefit of menthol cigarette bans.