What Restricting Flavored Tobacco Means for Your Quit-smoking Program

What Restricting Flavored Tobacco Means for Your Quit-smoking Program

In 2018, San Francisco became the first city to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

While San Francisco’s restriction is the strongest in the nation, other cities across the U.S. have taken similar action. The legislation is designed to restrict flavored tobacco products that entice kids and young adults and addict a new generation.

For employers and health plans, these policies on menthol cigarettes mark a significant opportunity as well.

This type of policy encourages smokers to consider (or reconsider) quitting. For example, in Ontario, Canada, more people quit smoking in the first 30 days following a restriction on menthol cigarettes expected.

While policy changes can spur smokers to make a quit attempt, quit success increases 2- to 3-fold when proven treatments are used. For employers and health plans, capitalizing on flavored tobacco policy restrictions means connecting smokers with an easy-to-access, effective program to help them succeed. With the right quit smoking program in place, such policies could help many smokers in your organization quit.

The Problem with Menthol Tobacco

Overall, cigarette smoking among U.S. adults has dropped from 21% in 2005 to about 15% currently. But not among menthol smokers.

Menthol cigarettes show a stronger hold for those who smoke them—especially in African American communities where nearly 90% of smokers choose menthol. Hispanics, Asian Americans, women, and young adults are also more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes.

Menthol makes cigarettes easier to smoke, because the chemical compound responsible for the minty taste creates a cooling effect in the throat, reducing the harshness of cigarette smoke and suppressing coughing. Menthol smokers are more addicted and less successful in quitting than smokers of regular cigarettes. Unfortunately, myths and misperceptions about menthol are common, including the incorrect belief that menthol makes it easier to quit.

Widespread Support for Removing Flavors

A national survey found that 1 in 5 Americans agree menthol flavoring in cigarettes should not be allowed. In the same survey, 39% of all menthol smokers and 44% of African American menthol smokers reported they wanted to quit.

Menthol smokers, and African American menthol smokers in particular, say that if menthol cigarettes were not available, they would be more likely to quit smoking altogether, rather than switch to other non-menthol tobacco products.

Making the most of these sentiments with an effective quit smoking program can lead to higher quit rates and lower healthcare costs.

Right Time, Right Program

To reap the long-term benefits of such a policy, it’s critical to have an accessible program in place that’s proven to engage smokers in the ways they prefer. For example, more of today’s tobacco users would rather use text, email, and online chat than traditional phone coaching.

A multimodal program that keeps users engaged in the quitting process, and an online social network that provides round-the-clock peer support, can help translate interest in quitting into a successful quit.

Interested in learning more about a digital cessation program that provides specialized support to stop tobacco use? Please visit our program page.

To learn more about menthol bans, see our blogs How Removing Menthol Cigarettes Could Help Black Communities and What Reduced-nicotine Cigarettes and Removing Flavored Tobacco Products Could Mean for Your People.

Amanda Graham, Ph.D.

Chief Health Officer

Dr. Amanda Graham leads the Innovations Center within Truth Initiative. The Innovations Center is dedicated to designing and building leading digital products for tobacco cessation, including the EX Program. She is internationally recognized as a thought leader in web and mobile quit-smoking interventions and online social networks and has been awarded over $15 million in research funding. She has published over 115 peer-reviewed manuscripts and serves on National Institutes of Health study sections and numerous journal editorial boards. Graham is Professor of Medicine (adjunct) at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

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