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A ban on menthol cigarettes

  • Published
    30th Apr, 2022
Context

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed rules for banning menthol cigarettes and all flavoured cigars.

About

About Menthol cigarettes:

  • Menthol cigarettes are flavored with menthol, which triggers the cold-sensitive nerves in the skin.
  • Menthol has a cooling and anesthetic (or pain killing) effect.
  • This also decreases the cough reflex and can soothe the dry throat feeling that many smokers have.
  • As a result, menthol smokers may inhale more deeply, hold the smoke in the lungs longer, and get more exposure to the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke.
  • Menthol is a flavor additive with a minty taste and smell.
  • In addition to tasting good, it has a cooling and painkilling effect.
  • Cigarette manufacturers add it to cigarette filters to cover up the unpleasant taste of tobacco and make cigarettes more appealing.

Methanol:

  • Menthol is a chemical compound found naturally in peppermint and other similar plants.
  • Menthol can also be produced in a lab.
  • Even though many brands of cigarettes are marketed as “menthol cigarettes,” almost all cigarettes sold in the U.S. contain at least some natural or lab-created menthol.

What are the health risks of flavored cigars?

  • Flavored cigars, or cigarillos, come in flavors like cherry, grape and vanilla. They are typically available at convenience stores and gas stations for a very low price.
  • Like menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars were not covered by the 2009 flavor ban. Cigars are not regulated in the same way as cigarettes.
  • Removing these products would be an important step in reducing the overall impact of tobacco on public health, especially in communities where they are popular.

How would a similar ban be likely to play out in India?

  • If India were to ban menthol and other flavoured cigarettes, the impact might be limited, given that chewing tobacco and bidi are the most common forms of tobacco use.
  • India has 7 crore tobacco users aged 15 and above, as per the last available Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2016-17) — 18% of the population uses smokeless tobacco, 7% smoke, and 4% use both.
  • Banning products has logistical issues as well. “Banning is not the solution. Things will be smuggled in.”

How many young Indians are tobacco users?

  • Tobacco use among 15-24-year-olds has been reducing in India, from 18.4% in GATS-1 (2009-10) to 12.4% in GATs-2 (2016-17), a relative reduction of 33%.
  • On the other hand, there has been an increase in tobacco use among American youth, driven mostly by e-cigarettes.
  • More than 1 in 4 high school students used tobacco product in the previous 30 days in 2018, with e-cigarette use increasing from 11.7% to 20.8% among high school students from 2017 to 2018, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • In India, e-cigarettes are banned.
  • A recent study from Canada shows that after menthol cigarettes were banned, 8% more menthol smokers quit smoking than non-menthol smokers.
  • Another modelling based study from Singapore, where use of flavoured cigarettes is predominant, showed that in 50 years, smoking prevalence will increase from 12.7% to 15.2% if flavoured cigarettes are not banned, go down by 10.6% if there is a complete ban, and remain the same if there is a partial ban.
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