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Impact of Ontario Menthol Cigarette Ban

Principal Investigator:  Thomas Eissenberg

Funding Mechanism: National Institutes of Health – Grant

ID number: 3P50DA036105-04S1

Award Date: 8/25/2016

Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University

In May 2015, Ontario, Canada passed legislation banning menthol cigarettes as of January 2017. This legislation presents an opportunity to understand the impacts of a menthol ban on individual and industry behavior. To goal of this study supplement is to use large-scale survey and mixed quantitative/qualitative methods to evaluate the effects of Ontario’s menthol ban on smoker and industry behavior. Study aims are: (1) to understand user behavior changes subsequent to a menthol ban by quantifying changes in tobacco use among recent menthol smokers (defined as having smoked a menthol cigarette in the past year), and (2) to characterize industry behavior changes subsequent to the menthol ban by analyzing pack and advertising signs and symbols. The project involves three studies. The first involves telephone surveys of cigarette smokers; the surveys include questions about tobacco use behaviors, demographics, and knowledge of and support for a menthol cigarette ban in Ontario. A total of 1,041 smokers (ages 16 and older) completed a baseline survey before the menthol cigarette ban went into effect; 27% reported smoking a menthol cigarette in the past year. These menthol cigarette smokers will complete two additional follow-up surveys to track changes over time following the ban implementation.  The second study involves visiting retail stores in Ontario to identify menthol cigarette availability and attempting to purchase menthol cigarettes before and after the menthol cigarette ban; packaging will be analyzed for content and the cigarettes themselves will be analyzed for the presence and amount of menthol. A final study involves an approach called concept mapping. In this study, 50-100 menthol smokers from the first study will identify specific behavior changes they have made and other ways the menthol cigarette ban has affected them. This project will be the first rigorous evaluation of a real-world ban on menthol flavored tobacco in a large market. Results will reveal how recent menthol smokers respond to the ban and how the tobacco industry adapts to it, and may inform regulatory activities related to menthol.

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