Can you still buy menthol cigarettes in the UK?
The sale of Menthol cigarettes became prohibited, and they were banned in the UK and the European Union (EU) as part of the revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) as a way to deter new smokers from taking up the habit.
The ban can in to force on the 20th of May 2020 and still remains in place today.
A brief unfiltered history of Menthol cigarettes
Menthol cigarettes were first developed in 1924 in the USA, although they did not become popular until around 1927 when the patent was acquired by a largely unknown tobacco company.
People were encouraged to smoke, and they were originally marketed as a “soothing, medicinal” alternative to traditional cigarettes, to give your throat a rest from the normal harshness of tobacco.
Menthol cigarettes first reached the UK in the 1930s, and were prescribed by doctors to patients between 1930s-1950s! The cause of this was because cigarettes brands hired throat specialist doctors to explain that the lack of menthol within normal cigarettes is to blame for them being ill, and they didn’t even believe that cigarettes were harmful at all, until people started becoming rapidly addicted to them.
Why was the Menthol ban implemented?
The ban was bought in as an attempt to reduce the number of smokers across the UK & EU. Not only are Menthol cigarettes banned in the England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but it is enforced across all countries within the European Union due to this ban being imposed by the EU themselves.
Tobacco consumption is the single largest avoidable health risk, and it is responsible for 700,000+ deaths a year in the UK. Statistics from Public Health England show that on average, 50% of smokers die premature, 14 years earlier than someone who is a non-smoker. This is why vaping has become more popular
Smoking laws and how they have changed
From 1908 to 2007, the minimum age to buy and consume tobacco products was 16 years old. But from 30th September 2007, the minimum age was raised to 18 years old.
New rules were bought in to give strict guidelines on the sale of tobacco and tobacco related products and anything that contained nicotine. The Tobacco Products Directive was introduced on May 20th 2016 as a “directive of the European Union which places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco related products in the EU.” The TPD was originally created in 2001 but was revised in 2014 to include e-cigarettes.
This was then revised to introduce health warnings being placed on to tobacco products, smaller packs of cigarettes to be sold, reducing the size from 20 to 10 cigarettes as well as stopping the production of certain sized hand rolling tobacco pouches. And the final revision to this being to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes effective from May 20th 2020.
How tobacco companies are attempting to get around the menthol ban
As soon as the ban of menthol cigarettes was implemented in the UK, tobacco companies already had a vast array of loophole strategies by creating diverse innovative menthol products to combat this ban within the tobacco industry and to keep people smoking.
Menthol accessories that are sold separately to cigarette packs or rolling tobacco pouches are the most popular amongst menthol smokers. These range from menthol filters, menthol infused rolling papers, or menthol infused cards used to slide into packs of non-menthol cigarettes and infuse regular cigarettes with the characterising menthol flavour people had become accustomed to. There are also now Menthol Drops which are solutions that contain menthol flavouring that you drop on to the filter of a cigarette.
Click Dual Cigarettes/Menthol Cigarillo sales
The other massive thing that tobacco companies started producing to combat the menthol ban were click dual type cigarettes or menthol cigarillos that normally have a small capsule in that is clicked to release menthol flavouring into the filter of the cigarette.
Certain Cigarette brands of these type of cigarettes/cigarillos have come under scrutiny due to being able to use vital strategies to extort the loophole of this ban by not having to have plain packaging like other cigarette brands, and they are essentially avoiding the menthol cigarette ban.
Japan Tobacco International UK were the innovators of these products, and documents show that in the first year of the menthol ban, the company sold more than 100m packs – equal to more than 2bn individual cigarettes – and made around £91.65m in profits from menthol brands. Astronomical figures when you look at them. JTI UK have since stopped producing these infused cigarettes and have pledged to be fully compliant with UK TPD Law going forward.
Other companies within the tobacco industry such as Imperial, British American Tobacco & Philip Morris International still produce the click dual cigarettes/menthol cigarillos for sale in the UK, as well as menthol cigarettes that can be sold around the world, just not within the EU.
How the menthol ban has impacted the vaping industry
Since the introduction of these new laws on menthol cigarettes, the vaping industry saw a massive surge in the sale of vape products with more menthol cigarette smokers opting to stop smoking completely and turn to vaping as a way to opt out of the menthol ban. With so many alternative products to try other than cigarettes or the adjoining accessories, it’s easy to see why there was such an uprise following these new rules that were imposed.
Is Menthol vape liquid banned?
No, the manufacture and sale of menthol vape liquid is completely unaffected by the ban of menthol cigarettes.
Just how much the vaping industry gained from the menthol ban & people wanting to stop smoking
The vaping industry has always gained with people who want to stop smoking and start vaping. But with the implementation of this ban, the gains grew and grew to substantial figures.
Menthol smokers opted to quit smoking and turn to vaping to still get their menthol fix after the ban, but also then began experimenting and finding alternative flavours like fruity based e liquids, some of which still had menthol mixed in as it stimulates cold receptors and gives a cooling sensation when vaped.
Smokers who opted to give up on smoking and start vaping often do not tend to continue smoking which is yet another gain for the vaping industry.
More than two thirds of vaping retailers were reporting a rise in sales a year on from the ban being implemented and people wanting to quit smoking due to menthol cigarettes being banned in the UK and not being able to get what they are used to smoking.