Responses to Real-World and Hypothetical Menthol Flavor Bans Among US Young Adults Who Smoke Menthol Cigarettes

Nicotine Tob Res. 2024 May 22;26(6):785-789. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntad259.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cigarette Smoking / epidemiology
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Flavoring Agents*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Menthol*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Products* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States
  • Vaping / epidemiology
  • Young Adult