Slowing Menthol’s Progress: Differential Impact of a Tobacco Tax Increase on Cigarette Sales

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Abstract

Objectives:

The proportion of smokers who use menthol cigarettes has increased nationally since 2004, while use of non-menthol cigarettes is declining, suggesting that menthol may be undermining the effectiveness of population level tobacco control efforts. In 2013 Minnesota passed a $1.75 cigarette tax increase. We investigated whether sales of menthol and non-menthol cigarettes were differentially affected by the price increase.

Methods:

Cigarette sales data from convenience stores in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, metro area from January 2012, through May 2015, were obtained. Proportion of sales accounted for by menthol cigarettes was analyzed with segmented regression.

Results:

Before the price increase, menthol cigarettes gained 2.21% (1.17, 3.12) of market share annually. Following the price increase, the trend slowed to 0.26% (−0.78, 1.56) annually. The slope before the price increase was significantly positive; the slope following the price increase did not significantly differ from zero.

Conclusions:

Sales of menthol cigarettes declined less rapidly than non-menthol cigarettes before the price increase. Sales of menthol and non-menthol cigarettes declined at more comparable rates after the price increase. Increasing the price of tobacco may help ensure declines in consumption are more evenly distributed across menthol and non-menthol cigarettes.

Implications:

Using sales data, we found that a trend of increasing market share for menthol cigarettes was significantly reduced by a $1.75 cigarette price increase. These results suggest that cigarette price increases, a core tobacco control policy, may have a greater effect on menthol smokers than non-menthol smokers.

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