Kid-friendly flavors, colorful packaging and scheming marketing campaigns target young people while masking the harmful tendencies of tobacco use.
The emergence of new candy-flavored tobacco products has parents, teachers, health advocates, physicians and communities rightly concerned. Cigarillos, cigars and a host of smokeless tobacco products – chew, snuff, snus, dissolvable tobacco – now come in such tantalizing flavors as pineapple, sour apple and chocolate. They are presented in bright and playful packaging and readily available at convenience stores throughout the state, much like Halloween candy.
These products, widely considered to be a gateway to a lifetime of tobacco addiction, have been proven to entice young audiences. In fact, use of all flavored tobacco products among youth is trending upward. In Florida, one in six kids between the ages of 11 and 17 had ever tried flavored tobacco, and youth erroneously believe these products to be less harmful than their non-flavored counterparts.
Youth have always been an essential target for the tobacco industry. Numerous internal tobacco industry documents reveal that the companies perceive kids as a key market, and develop products and advertising campaigns aimed at them. With traditional smoking rates on the decline in the U.S., the tobacco industry insures its livelihood by creating products and strategies that connect with a new generation of tobacco users.
Candy-flavored smokeless tobacco products are also perceived to be less harmful; but in reality, these products contain more nicotine than cigarettes, and 28 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens), including nitrosamines, which are the most harmful. In addition, people who experiment with smokeless tobacco often develop a pattern of regular daily use.
Fortunately, the onslaught of flavored tobacco products has not gone unnoticed. The controversial candy-flavored cigarette was banned under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Actin 2009. However, menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, cigarillos and smokeless products were not included. Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is examining options for regulating these remaining categories of flavored tobacco products.
Many municipalities throughout the state of Florida have taken on candy-flavored tobacco head-on. In June, Sarasota County passed a resolution urging local vendors to cease the sale and marketing of all candy-flavored tobacco products. The Fort Myers City Council also signed a resolution that urges tobacco retailers to stop selling and marketing all flavored tobacco in the city limits.
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