1 in 10 UK Smokers will be Affected
by the EU Ban on Menthol Tobacco

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Photo by Lex Guerra on Unsplash

The effort to reduce the number of people taking up smoking has led to the scheduling of an EU directive to ban menthol cigarettes and flavoured rolling tobacco, due to come into effect in May 2020.

Continuing in our series of research on public health, which has so far included surveys on alcohol consumption and smoking, and a Flash Poll on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we asked our UK consumer panel, OpinionHive, about the upcoming ban. We specifically asked whether they were aware of the legislation, whether they agreed with it, and how much it would impact them personally.


Of the 2,000 respondents aged 18 -70, 19% told us that they are currently smokers, 29% are ex-smokers, and the remaining 51% are non-smokers. 65% of our smokers opt for traditional cigarettes, while 53% choose the hand-rolled variety, 7% cigars, and 42% prefer to vape as a smoking alternative.

1 in 4 smokers (26%) select menthol cigarettes, and a further 22% have done in the past, with 34% of smokers having tried but not liked smoking menthol.

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The aim of the legislation is partly to refute the common misconception that the addition of menthol to tobacco makes it somehow better for you, but mostly to reduce the number of young people who opt for menthol tobacco products, and therefore reduce the uptake of tobacco products in general in young people.

Our survey results support this thinking, as we found that menthol cigarettes are considerably more popular with young people.

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Both current and ex-smokers do not think the ban will help reduce the number of young people who start smoking, yet 3 out of 4 smokers (76%) said that they would tell their younger self not to start smoking.

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Can smoking menthol ever be considered healthy?

Smokers are twice as likely to believe that menthol cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes, but they are still very much in the minority at 10%.

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How well publicised is the May 2020 ban?

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We found that 1 in 6 menthol smokers were unaware of the impending ban on their tobacco of choice, and encouragingly 10% said the ban would make them give up smoking entirely.

Who's in favour?

The results are not clear cut in favour or objection to a ban on menthol tobacco. The majority of non-smokers support both the ban on menthol and flavoured rolling tobacco, whilst more smokers are in opposition than support. Ex-smokers are somewhere in the middle.

Support the ban on menthol cigarettes

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How will the ban affect smoking habits?

We asked what impact the ban would have on smoking habits, and 30% said they would move to vape (which is not thought to be either a healthier nor safer option), 40% would switch to manufactured cigarettes (which are not menthol) and only 12% said that it would make them think twice about smoking at all in future.

We asked if events like national stop smoking events had helped people to quit?

1 in 4 smokers (and 1 in 10 ex-smokers) have participated in a quit smoking challenge like Stoptober in the past. 30% were able to quit altogether and 32% reduced their smoking.

Most participants had at least some success with 40% of smokers telling us that they reduced how much they smoke by attempting the challenge. 4% of all ex-smokers in the UK say they were able to quit by following a quit smoking challenge (some of the ex-smokers in our panel may well have quit long before these smoking events were common).


All in all, the ban on the sale of menthol tobacco does seem like it will have a positive impact on the number of people who choose to give up smoking. It does, however, remain to be seen whether this will reduce smoking among the young, and also brings up the question - what uplift there will be at Duty Free on the purchase of menthol tobacco products.

You can access other surveys and FREE fact sheets in our knowledge centre.

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