Retailers have warned that comments by lobbyists Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) are confusing customers about the legality of menthol accessories following the menthol ban in May.

ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott commented in an interview widely picked up by national and regional news outlets. She was quoted as stating: “No person may produce or supply a cigarette or hand rolling tobacco with a filter, paper, package, capsule or other component containing flavourings.”

The quote omits that the sale of flavoured accessory lines such as menthol papers in transactions containing a tobacco product will remain legal, as long as they are not included as part of the tobacco product.

Describing the impact of the comments, Natalie Lightfoot, owner of Londis Solo Convenience in Glasgow told betterRetailing: “There are a lot of retailers flapping over menthol tips and papers.

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“There is a lot of consumer press quoting a charity called Action on Smoking and Health categorically stating it’s illegal. That’s enough to get anyone panicking over what to recommend to our customers.”

A Twitter poll by betterRetailing found that 43% of respondents could not identify the correct legal status of menthol accessories after the ban. More than one in five respondents falsely believed that all menthol accessories would be banned.

Asked to clarify the status of menthol accessories, Mark Yexley, JTI’s head of communications explained: “The menthol ban applies to cigarettes that contain mentholated tobacco or a menthol capsule, as well as hand-rolling tobacco with mentholated filters or papers if they are all supplied together in the same product.

“However, the law still permits mentholated papers and filters to be sold, as long as they are produced and sold separately from hand-rolling tobacco products.”

betterRetailing approached ASH for comment and is awaiting a response.

The confusion follows warnings that consumers could be caught out when the menthol ban comes into force on May 20.

Speaking at the Local Shop Summit panel on preparing for the menthol ban, Arjan Mehr, owner of Londis Supermarket in Bracknell explained: “Public awareness is very low and people think the ban will never come.”

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