Menthol must be banned from cigarettes completely: RIVM joins European call


Dutch health institute RIVM has joined a European call for a complete ban on menthol in cigarettes because it promotes addiction.

Menthol in cigarettes in high concentrations was banned by the European Commission in 2020 but manufacturers are still using the additive, which the industry claims is harmless in low concentrations.

‘There is no such thing as a harmless concentration of menthol in tobacco,’ RIVM tobacco researcher Reinskje Talhout told Trouw. ‘There are plenty of independent studies which show that even in very low concentrations, menthol will encourage young smokers to keep smoking. Menthol slows the breakdown of nicotine and causes more nicotine to be released,’ she said.

Menthol is only one of 15 substances the European Commission has marked as likely to increase tobacco toxicity. Studies by the industry itself into the risks of these additives are of ‘insufficient quality’ according to the Joint Action on Tobacco Control (JATC), which advises the commission and is made up of researchers from almost all EU member states.

Talhout said the industry is clearly not a source of independent research. The fact that big tobacco is ignoring existing independent studies on the addictive properties of menthol in low concentrations shows it focuses more on the toxicity of the additives, she said.

A spokesperson for market leader Philip Morris said it is analysing the JATC report and has asked for a consultation with the group.

Junior health minister Paul Blokhuis said that the rules regarding the additive will be tightened if necessary, saying it is ‘unacceptable that manufacturers are operating on the fringes of the law.’

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