Tobacco manufacturers are finding loopholes in the EU-wide ban on menthol cigarettes in order to continue selling products that can make new smokers and younger smokers addicted to tobacco.
Japan Tobacco International (JTI) – which owns Sterling, Benson & Hedges and Sovereign – was able to circumvent a ban imposed in 2020 that sought to prevent young people from starting to smoke cigarettes. Competitors called on governments to investigate the company’s new “reimagined menthol” products.
A joint investigation by the Bureau and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) may reveal new details about how the confusion across Europe means that nearly 18 months after the entry into force of the ban in the EU and UK, no one is sure whether certain types of cigarettes are covered by the ban. A violation of the ban could potentially constitute a criminal offense. So far unreported documents show the tobacco industry is trying to pressure public health officials as well as smudges between cigarette makers accusing each other of undermining the ban.
Once described by the industry as “good starter products”, menthol cigarettes have a less harsh mint taste and are easier to inhale, making them attractive to many young smokers.
“The industry is bypassing the menthol ban for fear that menthol smokers will quit, so it can continue to provide products that it knows are easier to inhale for new young smokers,” Deborah said. Arnott, executive director of the health charity Action on Smoking. and health.
The UK and the EU banned cigarettes with a ‘characteristic menthol aroma’ in May 2020. But this category, Arnott said, is ‘difficult to measure and difficult, if not impossible, to enforce’.
JTI said: “We are convinced that all JTI products are fully compliant with the law and do not have characteristic flavors.”
The sniffle test
Before the ban, one in five British smokers bought menthols. In the months leading up to the law’s entry into force, the industry launched a number of alternative products.
JTI, which is the third largest tobacco multinational in the world, has renamed some of its menthol cigarettes under its “New Dual” line. His claim that these cigarettes contained a new blend of tobacco with lower levels of menthol sparked a series of investigations across Europe.