The move is part of a four year phasing-out period by the EU TPD which entered into force on May 2014.
The move is part of a four year phasing-out period by the EU Tobacco Product Directive (TPD) which entered into force on May 2014 and became applicable across the EU in May 2016. Chair of the Policy Group on Tobacco at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Professor Des Cox, said he supports the ban because menthols make initiating smoking easier.
“There’s been good research which demonstrates that young people are introduced to smoking often by menthol cigarettes as they find them more attractive, they find them less irritative and they find them more palatable, so that’s a way they get introduced to regular smoking. Also the cigarette companies today have targeted women with these products so we strongly feel that they should be banned and welcome the government’s decision to take this legislation forward,” said Cox.
The ban may be counterproductive
Smaller packets of rolling tobacco and 10-packs of cigarettes, as well as all tobacco advertising and point of sale displays, are already banned across Europe. In Ireland, branding has been banned with the Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Act, signed into law by President Michael D Higgins, in March 2015.
The European Commission (EC) hopes that these measures will reduce smoking rates, however some smokers fear that the menthol ban may have the opposite effect. “I smoke menthol occasionally as I say and it’s…for me, if I smoke menthol I smoke fewer cigarettes simply because it leaves a taste in your mouth and that for me is not conducive with a meal, or a coffee, or a coke or whatever, whereas a normal cigarette is. So for me, the taste of menthol is…for me actually it inhibits my smoking or slows it down,” said David Mahon, a smoker.
The allure of compound menthol
Compound menthol relaxes the airways and the flavour masks the harshness of tobacco smoke, which critics say may also be making it easier for first time smokers to start.
On the other hand, experts believe that menthol cigarettes give the sensory illusion of being less harmful than the regular type and therefore make it easier for people to smoke. The flavour in cigarettes is achieved via compound menthol, a substance which triggers cold-sensitive nerves without a real drop in temperature.
Additionally, in line with Cox’s argument, it is believed that menthol relaxes the airways and the flavour masks the harshness of tobacco smoke, which critics say may also be making it easier for first time smokers to start.
Menthols may be more addictive
Some research has also suggested that menthols may boost nicotine levels in the blood, making them more addictive and harder to quit than regular cigarettes. “There’s also evidence there that if you smoke menthol cigarettes it’s actually harder to quit so potentially they’re more addictive and there is pharmacological evidence of that because it seems that menthol affects nicotine levels, decreases the breakdown and affects the receptors in the brain so raising the levels of nicotine,” said Dr. Angie Brown, Chair of the anti-smoking lobby group Action on Smoking and Health Ireland (ASH).
“So potentially they’re actually more addictive. And of course they have all the carcinogens that non-menthol cigarettes have so they still cause cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and emphysema so they’re certainly not safer than non-menthol cigarettes,” she added.
Read Further: euronews
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