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Smokers encouraged to quit as menthol removed from sale

NEW rules removing menthol cigarettes from shop shelves could be the trigger which stops more children starting and encourages more North East smokers to quit.


The new rules, which start on Wednesday 20th May, mean that cigarettes flavoured with menthol can no longer be sold.  The move was announced four years ago to provide retailers, smokers and the industry with plenty of time to prepare.


Menthol cigarette use is more common among newer, younger smokers as the flavourings hide the taste of the tobacco and chemicals burning, while some youths smoke menthol products because they perceive them to be less harmful than non-menthol cigarettes (1). With menthol flavourings soon to be removed, the taste of the poisons will no longer be hidden and smokers may be more tempted to quit for good.


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "This move could signal the time for some smokers to quit for good and children might be less tempted start.


"For young people who might be experimenting with smoking, menthol can be the first cigarette of choice – a gateway into smoking. They might think that it's a less harsh option, with the menthol flavour masking the horrible experience of inhaling the smoke. There is evidence too that menthol cigarettes relax the airways, making it easier to start smoking and which could ultimately result in a lifetime addiction to tobacco.


"The reality is that whether or not cigarettes are flavoured, all tobacco will kill one in two of its long term users. With menthol flavours now being removed from cigarettes, we hope that some smokers will decide that now is the time to quit altogether. And with smoking causing complications from coronavirus, there has never been a better time for smokers to quit."


Sue Mountain, an ex-smoker from the region who developed cancer said she welcomes the new rules as she was mistakenly led to believe that smoking menthol was a safer alternative to non-flavoured tobacco.





Sue, from South Tyneside, used to smoke menthol cigarettes. She underwent laser treatment in 2012 after a biopsy revealed she had laryngeal cancer.  The cancer returned in 2017 which required radiotherapy every day for four weeks.


Sue said:  "I used to just think of cigarettes as tobacco – but you're setting fire to it and inhaling all the toxic chemicals that cause cancer. Removing menthol means people will be tasting these poisons properly - and hopefully will feel more like quitting.


"I went onto menthol cigarettes many years ago when I had my first child, Zoe.  I found it very difficult to stop smoking, and I thought that this was a safer choice.  It had to be, it was menthol and menthol is used for medicinal purposes.


"I used menthol cigarettes for a few years but always craved "proper" cigarettes. Since the cheap cigarette market did not have menthol as a cheaper tobacco, I reverted back to ordinary cigarettes but always felt guilty that I wasn't taking the "healthier" option.


"I'm so pleased the UK government are introducing the menthol ban because of menthol being associated with medicine and that it does the body good. I believe these types of products were giving the message that they were less harmful just by having menthol associated with them. I believe many smokers will have died or have suffered from smoking related diseases because they wrongly believed menthol was a healthier choice."




Shopkeeper John McClurey said: "Retailers have known for years about the new menthol rules so there is no reason why we shouldn't be well prepared.  It makes sense that menthol cigarettes are no longer for sale in the same way that other flavoured tobacco has been removed from the shelves. These days, tobacco sales are declining as fewer people are smoking, and I often tell people I'd much rather sell birthday cards for people who are living longer than sympathy cards for people who have died as a result of their smoking."


Estimates suggest that globally, menthol and capsule cigarettes have about 7% market share and about a fifth of the UK cigarette market is menthol/capsule. In a 2020 article the EU menthol market was estimated to be just under 10 million euros (2).


The legislation stems from the EU Tobacco Products Directive 2014. It has been transposed into UK law and will remain in force after the end of the transition period for leaving the EU comes to an end on 31 December 2020.