UK-wide ban on menthol cigarettes in bid to stop young people smoking

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All menthol cigarettes including capsule, double capsule, flavoured and skinny cigarettes are now banned in the UK.

The move comes as an effort to curb addiction among young people from the use of menthol cigarettes. Many smokers believe that mint and flavoured cigarettes are less harmful than those with tobacco, however some studies have shown there is a high risk of smokers developing lung cancer.

The new law came into force on Wednesday as part of a new EU Tobacco Product Directive. However, the restrictions are not extended to menthol filters, but it will now be illegal to sell them packaged with cigarettes or tobacco.

Brazil, Moldova, Ethiopia, Turkey and Canada each banned them several years ago. The US is looking to follow suit, but there has been strong opposition.

Data from the office for national statistics revealed that in the UK, there were a total of 7.2 million smokers in 2018, a drop of 5% from the 2011 figures.

Smoking has dropped amongst young people (Credit – ASH/ NHS data)

While this move was praised by anti-smoking charities and campaigners, some criticised the delay of implementing the ban.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of the public charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said in the statement: “Menthol cigarettes are a child-friendly starter product because menthol makes it easier to smoke and to inhale the smoke deep into the lungs.

“Therefore, smokers are more likely to become heavily addicted and find it harder to quit. That’s why the Government concluded a ban on menthol was justified, it’s just a shame it’s taken so long.”

Mark (*), a 31-year-old smoker from Cannock, told Birmingham Eastside, he is now faced with a tough decision.

“I have been smoking menthol cigarettes all my life and now that it is banned, I have two options left, switching to normal cigarettes or giving up smoking completely.

“I have stopped smoking at the moment because of the unavailability of the menthol cigarettes and I don’t like the normal ones. I just have to wait and see how it pans out.”

A recent survey by YouGov revealed that around 2.2 million people in the UK may be smoking more than usual during the COVID 19 crisis, while 4.8 million are approximated to be smoking the same amount as before the pandemic.

However 1.9 million smokers are believed to have cut down. The estimates were calculated from a representative study of about 2,000 people over April 30 to May 30 in YouGov’s Covid-19 tracker.

The cigarette and tobacco market in the United Kingdom is dominated by the two companies Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.

The two companies control around 80% of the tobacco market as of 2017 according to the data from ASH. The total value of cigarette sales in the UK in 2016 was £12.1 billion.

The menthol cigarette ban has been criticised by Simon Clarke, director of the pro-smoking group, ‘Forrest’

“It’s a gross restriction on consumer choice that will do nothing to stop children smoking. Evidence from Canada, where menthol cigarettes were first banned in 2015, suggests that the ban had no overall impact on youth smoking rates because younger smokers simply switched to non-menthol cigarettes.”

Meanwhile industry don’t appear to be phased by the new laws. A spokesperson for Philip Morris International, which manufactures the Marlboro brand, said a buyback scheme for all the existing menthol cigarettes had been implemented, so that the retailers wouldn’t lose any sales profit.

* not his real name

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