Would banning menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, and flavored e-cigarettes prompt users to seek illicit channels for obtaining them in the United States?

Prev Med. 2024 Jun:183:107954. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2024.107954. Epub 2024 Apr 15.


Background: Banning flavors in tobacco and nicotine products may reduce youth initiation and prompt quit attempts but such bans may lead to illicit markets. We examined how likely current users would be to seek flavored products from illicit channels under various ban scenarios.

Methods: Cross-sectional surveys of 2552 current users of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars and 2347 users of flavored e-cigarettes were conducted between 2021 and 2022 in the United States. For each ban scenario, respondents reported if they would have intentions to seek the banned flavored products from any illicit channels and identified the specific illicit channel they would consider. Logistic regressions were used to estimate how the likelihood of having intentions to seek illicit channels was associated with demographics, ban scenarios, and status of tobacco use.

Results: Under various ban scenarios, 24-30% of people who smoked said they would seek illicit channels to obtain the banned products compared with 21-41% of dual users and 35-39% of users of flavored e-cigarettes. Online retailers were favored by people who smoked while users of flavored e-cigarettes favored local retailers. Heavy users were more likely to say they would try illicit channels. Under bans restricting more types of flavored tobacco products, users would be less likely to try illegal channels.

Conclusions: A significant proportion of users of flavored tobacco and nicotine products would not reject using illicit banned products. Tailored programs are needed to apply to the groups with a higher risk of seeking illicit channels for banned products.

Keywords: Flavor ban; Flavored cigars; Flavored e-cigarettes; Illicit channels; Illicit market; Menthol cigarettes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Flavoring Agents*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menthol*
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Products* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Flavoring Agents
  • Menthol