Menthol facilitates smoking initiation among young people, enhances nicotine’s addictiveness and fosters the false belief that menthol products are safer. As a result, several countries have banned use of menthol as a characterising flavour. Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) could disallow menthol-flavoured cigarettes as part of its endgame legislation; however, little is known about the NZ menthol market.
To examine the NZ menthol market, we analysed tobacco company returns to the Ministry of Health from 2010 to 2021. We calculated the market share of menthol cigarettes as a percentage of total cigarettes released for sale, estimated capsule cigarettes’ market share as a percentage of total cigarette released for sale and menthol released for sale, and calculated menthol roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco released for sale as a percentage of total RYO released.
Menthol brands accounted for a relatively small but nonetheless sizeable proportion of NZ’s tobacco market and in 2021 constituted 13% of NZ’s factory made cigarette market and 7% of the RYO market, representing 161 million cigarettes and 25 tonnes of RYO. The introduction of capsule technologies using menthol flavours corresponded with a rise in menthol sales among factory made cigarettes.
Capsule technologies using menthol flavours work synergistically to enhance the appeal of smoking and appear likely to encourage experimentation among non-smoking young people. Comprehensive policy that regulates menthol flavours and innovations used to deliver flavour sensations will support tobacco endgame goals in NZ and could inform policy in other countries.