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Tob Control. 2019 Jun 5. pii: tobaccocontrol-2019-054997. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2019-054997. [Epub ahead of print]

Effect of menthol cigarette and other menthol tobacco product bans on tobacco purchases in the RTI iShoppe virtual convenience store.

Author information

Prime Affect Research, Dublin, Ireland
Center for Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA.



To test how a potential US ban of menthol products or replacement with 'green' products and ads could influence tobacco purchases.


US adult menthol smokers (N=1197) were recruited via an online panel and randomly assigned to complete a shopping task in one of four versions (experimental conditions) of the RTI iShoppe virtual store: (1) no ban, (2) replacement of menthol cigarettes and ads with green replacement versions, (3) menthol cigarette ban and (4) all menthol tobacco product ban. Logistic regressions assessed the effect of condition on tobacco purchases.


Participants in the menthol cigarette ban (OR=0.67, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.92) and all menthol product ban conditions (OR=0.60, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.83) were less likely to purchase cigarettes of any type than participants in the no ban condition. Participants in the green replacement (OR=1.74, 95% CI 1.13 to 2.70), menthol cigarette ban (OR=3.40, 95% CI 2.14 to 5.41) and all menthol product ban conditions (OR=3.14, 95% CI 1.97 to 5.01) were more likely to purchase a cigarette brand different from their usual brand than participants in the no ban condition.


Our findings suggest that menthol bans could have great public health impact by reducing cigarette purchases. However, tobacco marketing strategies, such as creating green (or other replacement) versions of menthol cigarettes, may undermine public health benefits of a menthol ban by prompting purchases of non-menthol cigarettes. Our findings highlight the importance of taking tobacco marketing tactics into consideration in tobacco product regulation.


advertising and promotion; packaging and labeling; public policy

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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