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Keywords:

  • Behavioral economics;
  • cigarettes;
  • menthol.

ABSTRACT

Aims  The US Food and Drug Administration must consider whether to ban the use of menthol in cigarettes. This study examines how current smokers might respond to such a ban on menthol cigarettes.

Design  Convenience sample of adolescent and adult smokers recruited from an online survey panel.

Setting  United States, 2010.

Participants  A total of 471 adolescent and adult current cigarette smokers.

Measurements  Respondents were asked a series of questions about how they might react if menthol cigarettes were banned. In addition, participants completed a simulation purchase task to estimate the demand for menthol and non-menthol cigarettes across a range of prices.

Findings  Overall, 36.1% of respondents said they always (18.9%) or usually (17.2%) smoked menthol cigarettes. When asked how they might respond to a ban on menthol cigarettes, 35% of current menthol smokers said they would stop smoking, and 25% said they would ‘find a way to buy a menthol brand’. Those who reported they might quit tended to have greater current intentions to quit [odds ratio (OR) = 4.47], while those who reported that they might seek illicit menthol cigarettes were far less likely to report current intentions to quit (OR = 0.06). Estimates for demand elasticity for preferred cigarette type were similar for menthol (α = 0.0051) and non-menthol (α = 0.0049) smokers. Demand elasticity and peak consumption were related to usual cigarette type and cigarettes smoked per day, but did not appear to differ by race, gender or age.

Conclusions  Preliminary evidence suggests that a significant minority of smokers of menthol cigarettes in the United States would try to stop smoking altogether if such cigarettes were banned.