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Why Were Menthol Cigarettes Banned In The UK?

17th Apr 2020

menthol cigarettes were banned in the UK in May 2020

As of May 20th 2020, all menthol cigarettes are be banned for sale across the UK and the rest of the EU.

The menthol ban is part of a campaign to phase out all flavoured cigarettes which started with the ban on 10 packs of menthols in May 2017. 

The ban applies to capsule, click-on, click & roll, crushball or dual menthol cigarettes, but not to e-cigarettes and e-liquids. It isn’t just menthols, any “masking flavours” are also subject to the ban.

Menthol is by far the most popular flavoured cigarette and makes up the vast majority of this market.

Other cigarette flavours that will no longer be available include anise, clove, citrus and fruit flavours.

The new rules ban the manufacture and sale of cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco (including papers and filters) with:

  • A filter, paper, package, capsule or other component containing flavourings.
  • A filter, paper or capsule containing tobacco or nicotine.
  • A technical feature allowing the consumer to modify the smell, taste, or smoke intensity of the product.

Manufacturers and sellers have until May 20th to get rid of all of their stock, so while it’s still legal to buy and sell menthol cigarettes until then, you might find them harder and harder to find as the day of the ban comes closer, due to people buying more than usual to keep them going while there isn’t any new stock coming in. The ban also affects EU nations like Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, so you won’t be able to import menthols from within most of Europe either.

Any sellers or manufacturers found to be producing or distributing menthol cigarettes after the ban are liable for a fine or even a prison sentence of up to two years, so you can be fairly confident that the supply of menthol cigarettes will be drying up pretty quickly. This means that now is the time to look into alternatives!

Why Are Menthols Being Banned?

menthol cigarettes being smoked by young people

Around 25% of smokers are estimated to regularly smoke menthol cigarettes, and the ban comes on the back of research showing that menthol cigarettes are more appealing to young people and new smokers, with  half of underage smokers choosing menthol cigarettes. In fact, in a study of young smokers, those who smoked menthols were 80% more likely to become lifelong smokers than those who smoked standard tobacco cigarettes. The menthol flavour not only masks the smell and taste of tobacco but also relaxes the airways, making it easier and more comfortable to inhale. This means that menthol cigarettes are considered to be better “starter” cigarettes for new smokers, or a good way for non-smokers to start smoking, which is obviously something that isn’t to be encouraged. This is one of the primary reasons behind the ban on flavoured cigarettes, including menthols.

Menthol cigarettes were first popularised in the 1920s and 1930s, with filter-tip menthols first coming to the market in the 1950s, and have remained popular since. They make up around a quarter of smokers in the UK, and up to a third in the USA. In the past, menthol cigarettes were also considered to be less harmful than plain tobacco cigarettes, which has been proven to be untrue. Menthol cigarettes are just as harmful to health as tobacco cigarettes, however, this myth is still a commonly cited one even today. They are seen as a “cleaner” way to smoke, as there is less of the common lingering smell of smoke and strong tobacco flavour with menthol cigarettes, despite the fact that all research points to the contrary.

Menthol Cigarettes Around The World

In 2012, Brazil made history as the first country in the world to enact a ban on menthol cigarettes, despite heavy opposition from tobacco companies. This ban covered all kinds of flavoured cigarettes, not just menthols, which were popular with young people in Brazil.  Tobacco products with brightly coloured packaging and multiple clickable flavour capsules were also banned for trying to appeal to young smokers.

In the USA, there has been a long-lived battle between tobacco companies and health officials regarding the ban of menthol cigarettes. Historically, cigarettes were marketed heavily towards African American communities,  resulting in 70% of underage African American smokers using menthol cigarettes, compared to 50% of underage smokers across the board. While all other flavoured cigarettes have been banned by the FDA in recent years after many companies developed chocolate and fruit flavoured cigarettes to appeal to a younger audience, menthol cigarettes were exempt from this ban. There is still intense argument among industry leaders and health officials as to whether menthol cigarettes should be banned, with points about the high levels of menthol use among black smokers often taking centre stage in the debate. In 2018, the FDA announced its intention to ban menthol cigarettes completely, however then changed their position to support the use of age-restricted rooms as the only place menthol cigarettes can be sold.

5% nicotine strength juul ecig

The US has also been looking into heavily restricting the use of e-cigarettes due to the success of the Juul brand, which is very popular with young people and teenagers. The nicotine content of Juul devices and similar competitor devices, which use a pod-based system, are much higher than the legal limits in the UK and EU (Juul pods in the US contain up to 5% nicotine - the legal limit in the UK is 2%), which may be one of the reasons e-cigarette use is might higher among teens and young people in the US.

However, this restriction may also be part of the reason menthol bans in the US have been unsuccessful, with priority being given to the restriction of e-cigarettes due to intense lobbying from US tobacco companies, who have historically been a very powerful sector of the market.

Back in the UK, faced with the ban on menthols, cigarette brands have been looking into  alternatives to get menthol-based tobacco products back on the market, or at least to provide end-users with menthol-flavoured products, though they have been heavily criticised by the government and regulatory authorities. For example, one brand has created a cigarette shaped and sized menthol-infused cigarillo, that is actually classed as a cigar and is therefore exempt from the ban, but offers users the same experience as smoking a menthol cigarette. Other companies have created “infusions” - small pieces of card that when inserted into the cigarette or tobacco packet, infuse the products with menthol flavour. However, for many users, they will have to decide whether to switch to traditional tobacco flavours or vape to maintain their menthol habit.

Why Should Menthol Smokers Switch To Vaping?

Once the ban comes into effect, those who smoke menthol cigarettes will have to either switch to traditional tobacco cigarettes or move into vaping, as menthol and tobacco flavoured e-liquids are not affected by the ban. Vaping has also been shown to be 90% safer than smoking, making it the obvious choice for both the same experience and choice of flavours, but also to help reduce the health risks associated with smoking.

There are a wide variety of nicotine replacement therapies available on the market, including nicotine gum, nicotine patches, sprays and lozenges. However, while these can be very effective when it comes to curbing the body’s nicotine addiction, there are also several physical sensations that are associated with smoking, which many users trying to quit find very difficult to get past. Vaping is ideal for smokers looking to cut down or quit their habit, as well as smokers moving from menthol cigarettes. It not only  satisfies the body’s nicotine cravings but can also very effectively emulate the shape, size, weight and inhaling experience of a menthol cigarette. Many smokers also miss the social side of smoking when they try to quit, but with vaping, you can continue to carry out your regular social routines without needing to smoke on a regular basis. There are many different brands, types and varieties of menthol cigarettes available, which is why we also have several different menthol flavours available to help you find the perfect option for you and emulate your favourite brand all the more effectively.

V2 Cigs Flavours for Menthol Smokers

At V2 Cigs,  we stock a wide variety of different e-liquids that come in a multitude of different flavours, including a selection of tobacco and menthol flavours, to provide ex-menthol smokers with an authentic cigarette flavour and effectively emulate the experience of smoking menthol cigarettes, without having to go cold turkey or switch to tobacco cigarettes. There are many different types, compositions and strengths of e-liquid that can be used to customise your vape experience the way you want to, including several different strengths or concentrations of nicotine, to help satisfy your cravings without needing to vape too often. The most common concentrations are 0.6%, 1.2% and 1.8%, though other strengths (including 0% nicotine) are available to give you the perfect cigarette replacement for you. These strengths are available for all of our starter kits, which offer menthol smokers a brilliant, safe and cost-effective alternative to cigarette smoking.

The Vapour2 Starter Pack comes with the option of four flavour families to sample before shelling out on cartridges that you might not even enjoy! We offer a Menthol sampler pack which is perfect for many ex-menthol smokers, and contains four different exciting menthol flavours -  Classic Menthol for an authentic experience, refreshing and invigorating Peppermint, Green tea Menthol, for a smooth, comfortable flavour with more tones and depth, and Bold Leaf Menthol, for those of you who appreciate a very strong menthol kick! After you’ve tried your starter pack flavours and found your favourites, you can buy these flavours individually and in larger quantities - in packs of 5, 20, 40, 80 and 100 (which costs 25% less than buying 20 individual packs of 5 cartridges) - to ensure you never run out when you need them! You can also buy  blank Classic Cartridges that you refill yourself

The Vapour2 EX Series cartridges also have a great selection of flavour options, including a traditional menthol flavour to give you that classic taste and experience, without the associated dangers of smoking tobacco cigarettes. The EX series cartridges also have a small window on the side, so you can be sure you’ve always got enough e-liquid on hand, and know if you need to take a spare out with you. 

Once you’ve found the perfect flavour for you, you can stock up in larger quantities to get the best, most cost-effective option, and ensure you’re never stuck without e-liquid when you need it most! Our EX Series cartridges come in packs of 5, 20, 40 and 80 for the best possible value options. You can also purchase  empty EX Series cartridges to refill with the e-liquid of your choice, giving you the pick of the market as far as different concentrations, flavours and formulas are concerned.

As well as the wide variety of exciting and authentic menthol flavours available, there are also two common e-liquid formulas that can be used in vapes, freebase nicotine and nicotine salts:

Freebase Nicotine E-Liquids

Freebase nicotine is the kind of nicotine that you’ll get in cigarettes, and is the most common type of e-liquid on the market. It is made up of the purest form of nicotine with all other protons and chemicals removed to give you an intense hit in a small dose. Freebase nicotine is also the kind of nicotine you see in the majority of nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gum, lozenges and sprays, and has been the most popular form of nicotine on the market since its introduction in the 1960s. In an e-liquid,  freebase nicotine is combined with Vegetable Glycerin (VG), Propylene Glycol (PG) and flavourings like tobacco, fruits, and of course, menthol flavours. This liquid is then heated inside your vape device to produce the signature vapour that you inhale.

Nicotine Salt E-Liquids

Nicotine salts (sometimes known as nic salts) are a slightly newer development than freebase nicotine, and offer a great alternative for users who don’t like a strong throat hit sensation, which is common with more concentrate freebase nicotine formulas. Nicotine salts are the closest form of nicotine to their natural state to provide a more intense and concentrated nicotine rush.

Nic salts naturally have an incredibly high vaporising temperature, so alongside the same VC, VG and flavourings as freebase nicotine formulas, nicotine salts are combined with an acid, usually benzoic acid. This helps to reduce the vaporising temperature of the nicotine, as well as reduce the pH of the liquid, which  results in a less intense and much smoother throat hit for nic salt vapers. This makes nicotine salts ideal for many ex-smokers, particularly those who have smoked heavily for an extended period, as it allows for faster absorption of the nicotine and a more intense rush when inhaled, without the same harshness that freebase nicotine solutions have in high concentrations.

For those starting the switch to vaping from traditional cigarettes and normal mentholated cigarettes, we recommend starting with freebase nicotine formulations as they are more widely accessible and affordable to start with. They also are compatible with many different starter kits and beginner vapes, while nicotine salts are designed for most effective use with certain devices. Nicotine salts are also less effective at holding complex flavours than their freebase counterparts, so if you want to try menthol flavours with a bit more depth and layering in flavour, freebase nicotine e-liquids are a better place to start.

However, heavy smokers may find that they are needing to vape more often and at high concentrations, which some users find uncomfortable. In these cases, nic salts are ideal as they offer a more intense hit, without actually consuming more nicotine.

Getting Started With Vaping For Ex-Smokers

Vaping is a great alternative for ex-smokers for a massive variety of reasons. First and foremost, the NHS estimates that vaping is 95% safer for our general and respiratory health than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes.

It’s no secret that there are hundreds of different chemicals in tobacco leaves and the products they are treated with before being made into cigarettes, as well as in the papers of the cigarettes. The average cigarette contains over 7000 different chemical compounds, including 70 that are known to be carcinogenic, as well as other poisonous substances like arsenic, acrolein, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, lead, and nicotine. Over 70% of those quitting smoking are estimated to do so because of concerns around their current or future health, making this an incredibly important consideration when looking for new products to replace traditional mentholated cigarettes.

broken menthol cigarettes next to a vape pen

On the other hand, e-liquids for vaping generally contain only a small handful of ingredients - some form of nicotine (usually freebase or nicotine salts), flavourings, vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG). Within this formula, there are some of the same ingredients as cigarettes, but they exist in much lower levels than in cigarettes. Nicotine salts are created by combining some form of acid with the nicotine to create a smoother, more acidic formula.

Vaping also has the advantage of being able to satisfy the physical habits and cravings that go along with long-term smoking, as well as the satisfying the same nicotine rush as cigarettes. For example, the sensation of inhaling smoke or vapour, the physical movement of moving your hand to your mouth, having something in your hands to occupy them, not to mention the social aspect of smoking for many smokers.

Vaping allows you to continue your regular physical and social routines without any disruption, unlike other nicotine replacement therapies like patches, sprays and lozenges, which can only replace the body’s craving for nicotine, and don’t combat the secondary addictive properties of a smoking habit. Vaping is also far more convenient for many users than smoking, as there are no laws banning vaping in public places, unlike cigarettes. 

However, it’s worth noting that most offices, restaurants, pubs, cafes and transport networks will have their own rules around the use of vapes, so you can’t just pull out your vape anywhere! However, the rules around vaping in public are still far more relaxed than those around conventional tobacco cigarettes.

You also cannot “secondhand vape” - the people around you will not be affected by inhaling vapour from an e-cigarette, making it considerably safer for your friends and family as well as better for your own health. E-cigarette vapour also doesn’t stain your fingers or leave lingering smells in the same way that cigarettes do. In enclosed areas, some e-liquids may have a lasting smell, but in ventilated areas, this is very rarely a concern, and the vapour doesn’t stick to clothes and furnishings, or stain ceilings and walls, even for those vaping very regularly.

Best Devices for Ex-Smokers

At V2 Cigs, we understand the challenges that quitting smoking can have for many people and so offer our customers a wide range of vape products to make sure they get the best possible experience with our vapes and e-liquids and find it easier to cut down or quit smoking entirely. With the menthol cigarette ban on the horizon, now is the perfect time to look into alternatives to traditional tobacco products, including vapes, which are not affected by the menthol ban, meaning we can still offer the same wide selection of e-liquid flavours and cartridges as always.

Vapour2 Classic Range Starter Kit

One of the best options for new vapers is the  Vapour2 Classic Range, as it is incredibly easy to use, very affordable and acts as the perfect introduction into the world of e-cigarettes. It is a “cig-a-like” device, designed to accurately emulate the look and feel of a tobacco cigarette through it’s small, light shape and size and distinctive coloured chambers. With this device, you simply screw in the flavour cartridge of your choice, inhale and you’re ready to go!

With the Starter Pack, you’ll get  one of the standard devices, an express USB charger and a pack of four flavour cartridges in one of our exciting flavour profiles: Tobacco, Sweet, Fruity or Menthol. These cartridges are available in a 0% nicotine formula, as well as 0.6%, 1.3% and 1.8% concentrations to help curb nicotine cravings without the need for cigarettes. With our Standard Pack, you’ll get two devices to keep wherever is convenient for you and your lifestyle, and a USB charger. With the standard pack, you’ll get five cartridges in the flavour and strength of your choice - we have four brilliant menthol flavours to choose from!

IQ Air Nicotine Salts Vape Kit

If you’re looking for a beginner device that is compatible with nicotine salt e-liquids,  look no further than the iQ Air Vapers Kit. This kit comes with two devices, two chargers and a total of five nicotine salt pods in your choice of five flavours: Menthol, Tobacco, USA Mix, Strawberry or a variety pack. With a powerful 400mAh battery, slim and convenient casing and smart battery indicator, this is an ideal vape for those looking to try nicotine salts for the first time. The nicotine salt e-liquid pods give users a smoother, more intense nicotine hit than traditional freebase formulas, making them a brilliant option for those coming away from a heavier smoking habit, or those who simply enjoy a strong nicotine rush and don’t want an intense throat hit sensation.

With the menthol cigarette ban on the horizon, millions of smokers will have to decide whether to switch to regular cigarettes or to move towards other options and technologies. Vaping is a clearly appealing answer to many of the questions surrounding the ban - your day-to-day schedule doesn’t have to change, you don’t need to worry about withdrawals and you can keep your favourite, fresh menthol flavours. With so many options available and our experienced team on hand to help you choose your vape,  why not give vaping a try?