Does Removing Menthol Cigarettes in Convenience Stores Reduce Susceptibility to Cigarette Smoking?
An Experimental Investigation in Young People
Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 251 (October 2023). doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.110938
Posted on RAND.org on September 05, 2023
Evidence for the effectiveness of menthol cigarette bans comes mostly from studies of adults that smoke. This experiment evaluated whether the absence of menthol products from a convenience store influenced young people's susceptibility to cigarette smoking after they shopped in the store.
This experiment took place in the RAND StoreLab (RSL), a life-sized research convenience store. A three-group, between-subjects design was used. Study conditions differed in the mix of flavored tobacco products the RSL displayed: 1) All tobacco-, sweet-, and menthol-flavors displayed; 2) only tobacco- and menthol-flavors displayed; and 3) only tobacco-flavors displayed. Participants were randomly assigned to shop in the RSL under one of these conditions and after shopping, completed measures of their susceptibility to cigarette smoking, one measure for menthol cigarettes and one for unflavored cigarettes (scores on each susceptibility measure was dichotomized: 0 = not susceptible; 1 = susceptible).
Multivariable logistic regression assessed the main effects of condition on susceptibility to smoking menthol and unflavored cigarettes. There was no condition effect on susceptibility to smoking unflavored cigarettes. However, removing menthol-flavored products significantly increased participants' susceptibility to smoking menthol cigarettes compared to when all flavored products were available (OR = 3.66, 95% CI [1.33, 10.03]). This significant effect was only found among young people with some pre-existing risk of cigarette smoking (OR = 5.92, 95% CI [1.81, 19.39]).
Results suggest the need to consider that menthol bans could unintentionally increase the appeal of menthol cigarettes among youth already at risk of smoking.