450,000 smokers to quit on 20th May, consumer study reveals

New data shows that 39% of menthol smokers will quit on 20th May 2020 – equivalent to 450,000 current smokers – when the ban on menthol cigarettes comes into force. That’s 1 in every 20 smokers in the UK kicking the habit.

The study, conducted by smoking cessation advocates Vape Club, asked over 1,000 menthol users in UK questions on whether they intended to smoke or quit following the ban, and what product – if any – they intended to use after the 20th May. The findings give an insight into the impact in consumer behaviour that the menthol ban will have, leading smokers to quitting.

Within the study, it was found that 18% of UK menthol smokers intend to use menthol vaping as a smoking cessation method, 10% will quit by going ‘cold turkey’, and 5% will use nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) such as nicotine gum or patches. According to NHS data, people who use ecigarettes to quit smoking are twice as likely to succeed.

Data from the study also finds that more support is needed in offering smoking cessation methods in the UK. Up to 50,000 smokers in the UK are missing out on effective smoking cessation help, stating that they would like to quit smoking but don’t know where they can access support. This issue is sure to have been exacerbated by the decrease in communication caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

However, some menthol smokers are determined not to be deterred in the short term, with 2.4% of those surveyed saying that they have stockpiled menthol cigarettes in advance of the ban. 56% of menthol smokers have stated that they would continue to smoke using regular cigarettes or rolling tobacco.

Part of the EU Tobacco Product Directive laws, the ban is set to bring the UK government a step closer to its pledge to end smoking in England by 2030. As part of this plan, the government said in 2019 that it will offer help to quit smoking for every smoker who is admitted to hospital – but on the evidence of Vape Club’s survey, this service needs to be implemented more effectively.

The effects of the ban look set to be felt in the long term, as menthol cigarettes are widely seen as a gateway for young people getting into smoking. A 2018 study showed that equivalent to 1.2 million smokers in England indicated menthol as their usual brand.

What have the lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic meant for smokers?

Vape Club’s study found that just under 300,000 smokers are currently quitting due to COVID-19. It was also found that the pandemic has fuelled a greater appetite to quit, with 29% of smokers now stating that they now would consider quitting in the near future – equivalent to a potential 2.6 million fewer smokers in the UK.

The survey also found that:

– 67% of UK smokers (6.4 million) have not taken warnings to quit during the COVID-19 pandemic and don’t intend to stop smoking
– 31% of UK smokers (3 million) don’t believe that they’re at greater risk from COVID-19 due to smoking

Dan Marchant, Director at Vape Club and member of the UK Vaping Industry Association, states:

“It’s great to hear that the steps being taken are set to have a real effect on the number of tobacco smokers in the UK, and take us closer towards the government’s 2030 UK smoking targets. However, it’s concerning to see that there are up to 50,000 people across the UK who, despite wanting to kick the habit, aren’t aware of available support to quit smoking.

I’d like to see stop smoking services reaching out to the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach in society, as there’s clearly a desire to quit with the right support. With vaping being the most effective form of smoking cessation, it’s important that stop smoking services present it as an effective tool that will help these menthol smokers to quit.”