Intended and Unintended Effects of Banning Menthol Cigarettes

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Bans on menthol cigarettes have been adopted throughout the European Union, proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration, and enacted by legislatures in Massachusetts and California. Yet there is very limited evidence on their effects using real-world policy variation. We study the intended and unintended effects of menthol cigarette bans in Canada, where seven provinces banned them prior to a nationwide ban in 2018. Difference-in-differences models using national survey data return no evidence that provincial menthol cigarette bans affected overall smoking rates for youths or adults. Although menthol cigarette smoking fell for both youths and adults, youths increased nonmenthol cigarette smoking, and adults shifted cigarette purchases to unregulated First Nations reserves. Our results demonstrate the importance of accounting for substitution and evasion responses in the design of stricter tobacco regulations.

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