The US Food and Drug Administration most recently announced its intention to ban menthol cigarettes and cigars nationwide in April 2021. Implementation of the ban will require evidence that it would improve public health. This paper simulates the potential public health impact of a ban on menthol in cigarettes and cigars through its impacts on smoking initiation, smoking cessation and switching to nicotine vaping products (NVPs).
After calibrating an established US simulation model to reflect recent use trends in cigarette and NVP use, we extended the model to incorporate menthol and non-menthol cigarette use under a status quo scenario. Applying estimates from a recent expert elicitation on the behavioural impacts of a menthol ban, we developed a menthol ban scenario with the ban starting in 2021. We estimated the public health impact as the difference between smoking and vaping-attributable deaths and life-years lost in the status quo scenario and the menthol ban scenario from 2021 to 2060.
As a result of the ban, overall smoking was estimated to decline by 15% as early as 2026 due to menthol smokers quitting both NVP and combustible use or switching to NVPs. These transitions are projected to reduce cumulative smoking and vaping-attributable deaths from 2021 to 2060 by 5% (650 000 in total) and reduce life-years lost by 8.8% (11.3 million). Sensitivity analyses showed appreciable public health benefits across different parameter specifications.
Our findings strongly support the implementation of a ban on menthol in cigarettes and cigars.