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Sleepwalking to prohibition

Twelve months today menthol cigarettes will be banned throughout the European Union.

Regardless of whether we have left by then (I have my doubts), menthols will be banned in the UK too.

The policy was introduced as part of the EU’s revised Tobacco Products Directive that was implemented on May 20, 2016.

Member states were given a year to introduce a range of measures including larger health warnings plus bans on ten packs and smaller pouches of rolling tobacco.

The ban on menthol-flavoured tobacco was overlooked by most people, including consumers, because it was given a three-year stay of execution.

I imagine that stocks will decline gradually in the new year before consumers wake up on May 20, 2020, and find that their local store no longer sells any brand of menthol cigarette, a product they may have purchased regularly for years if not decades.

The reason for the ban is the disputed claim that because menthols are allegedly ‘smoother’ than regular cigarettes they appeal more to teenage smokers and therefore encourage more children to smoke.

It’s said too that the minty flavour masks the taste of tobacco, which again makes them more appealing to children. Allegedly.

Consumers in Britain will notice the absence of menthol cigarettes more than in other European countries because according to Euromonitor 18 per cent of all cigarettes sold in the UK are menthol-flavoured.

In Ireland the figure is just three per cent.

Consumers will take it on the chin, as we always do, but the seriousness of the situation can’t be ignored.

We’re not talking about a display ban that ‘hides’ the product from customers, or ‘plain’ packaging that removes all branding and replaces it with the ‘ugliest’ colour in the world.

Those policies may ultimately reduce the number of brands available to consumers but they didn’t stop adults purchasing cigarettes, flavoured and non-flavoured.

Even the sexist ban on slim packs (which implied that women are influenced more by looks and length!) made no fundamental difference to people’s ability to smoke.

The ban on menthol cigarettes is different. Suddenly we are faced with the prohibition of an entire class of product that was first developed in the States in the 1920s.

After May 20 next year over one million consumers will have the following choices:

1. Switch to non-flavoured cigarettes
2. Quit smoking and switch to (menthol) vapes
3. Quit all nicotine products
4. Buy illicit menthol cigarettes on the black market

Almost one in five cigarettes sold in Britain are menthol. What next? A ban on all cigarettes, not to mention any product that is considered ‘attractive’ to young people - sweets and sugary drinks, for example.

We really are sleepwalking to prohibition and few people are either aware or willing to do anything about it.

WAKE UP!!!!!

See ‘UK "sleepwalking to prohibition" says Forest’ and ‘The EU’s mental ban on menthol‘ (Spiked).

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Reader Comments (12)

Prohibition in slices over decades and generations was planned as far back as the 1970s for tobacco and cigarettes. Now it is moving quickly towards other products in the name of reformulation.

"First they came for smokers but I was a Brexiteer and I didn't like smoking .... And then they came for the sugar in my donut but I didn't care because I liked cheap cider...and then they came for ..."

The problem is people should have woken up more than 10 years ago with the blanket smoking ban which opened the way to every other ban, restriction, and price hike forced on us since then ....and we all know the same tactics to ignore Brexit and every other non democratic oppression on our way of life and culture were first used when ignoring concerns from tobacco consumers. They have the template and they are making best use of it.

If people care about freedom and democracy they need to realise that standing up for the trivial things they dislike means the bigger things they love will be safe too. Freedom cannot be selective. It either is there or it is not. Perhaps people just don't value liberty as a concept anymore.

Monday, May 20, 2019 at 14:44 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

TPD did not ban slims. It banned 'lipstick' packs but not slims.

Monday, May 20, 2019 at 14:46 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I should have said ‘slim packs’ rather than ‘slims’ - see ‘10 key changes for tobacco products sold in the EU’:

Monday, May 20, 2019 at 15:58 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

People have been sleepwalking into totalitarianism in many areas, like free speech and property rights. Frankly, I can't see them waking up until it's too late.

"Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave." (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

As for menthols, when I was growing up, I don't remember anyone but old people smoking them (or what seemed like oldies at the time). Have times changed, or are they just using the chiiildren yet again as an excuse to manipulate the adults?

I expect my peers would have guffawed if I'd taken out a packet of menthols after school. They'd be asking when I'm getting a blue rinse!

Monday, May 20, 2019 at 16:43 | Unregistered CommenterStewart Cowan

Does anyone know if menthol filters for rolling tobacco will be banned too?

Monday, May 20, 2019 at 17:24 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich


The ‘No flavoured cigarettes or hand-rolling tobacco’ law includes menthol filters. It’s explained thus:

Cigarette packs, individual cigarette sticks or hand-rolling tobacco - including any filter, paper, package or capsule component of the product - must not be produced or supplied with a characterising flavour. A filter, paper or capsule must not contain tobacco or nicotine; technical features that would modify the smell, taste or smoke intensity of a product are not allowed.

Monday, May 20, 2019 at 22:28 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Thanks for that clarification. I think I am going to stock up on menthol filters and hope they have a long shelf life!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 12:44 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

18 per cent of all cigarettes sold in the UK are menthol-flavoured.

I find that hard to believe. i haven't seen one since the 1970s.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 13:43 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

It's not as if they are easy to find given you cannot see displays nor are you allowed to know what is in your tobacco product.

For sure the menthol tips are very popular as are menthol cigarettes with those who choose those brands so I have no idea where you have been since the 1970s.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 14:35 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Loads of people smoke menthol and have no idea this ban is coming.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 16:34 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

The daft thing is, it’s perfectly easy to “create” your own menthol cigarettes if that’s your preference. Simply remove two or three cigarettes from a normal pack (or smoke them!), slip a polo mint into the pack, leave it for a couple of days and – hey presto – all your cigarettes will have a lovely, subtle minty flavour. Better, in fact than the ready-produced kind which I personally have found to be a bit harsh on the throat on the few occasions that I’ve smoked one. I’m told that the same thing works with fruit-flavoured sweets, too (the hard, boiled-sweet type, obviously, not the gummy or squishy types!), so you can now have strawberry, raspberry, cherry, orange, lime or lemon flavour cigarettes, too! I’ve never heard of it being used with butterscotch sweeties, but I guess it could be worth trying. Ooh – butterscotch ciggies. What a lovely thought! And what about trying Tunes (or other menthol-based sweeties)? Menthol and fruity, too! Wow! If enough people get wind of this trick, this move could inspire more flavours of cigarettes than there are flavours of e-cigarettes. How’s that for irony?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 0:15 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Another reason for a smoker's revolt. Adults should be able to choose among smoking and vaping. They should be able to choose menthol or regular (or any other flavor for that matter). This ridiculous ban should be repealed along with the smoking ban, plain packs and the ban on displaying tobacco products.

Saturday, May 25, 2019 at 1:55 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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