Kids continue to be targets of tobacco manufacturers. They have been from the very beginning and as tobacco company sales fall, the tobacco industry has demonstrated a willingness to pull out all the stops to maintain their beginner smoking programs.
In 2009, as part of President Obama’s comprehensive Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act, candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes were banned.
Anyone who has even the most basic knowledge of the history of cigarette manufacturers like Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds and their targeting of the youth market can appreciate why cigarette makers would manufacture candy and fruit flavored cigarettes. Almost 90 percent of adult smokers start smoking as teens and over 440,000 die each year from cigarette-related deaths, the goal of such a ban is just as obvious. In fact, tobacco companies spent millions conducting studies of youth smoking trends long after the Surgeon general’s report in the 1960’s. A 1974 study comparing the effect of menthol cigarettes on youthful smokers set forth:
”More than 50% of men smokers start smoking fairly regularly before the age of 18 and virtually all start by the age of 25.”
“If a person is going to smoke cigarettes, he generally starts during his teens…”
“Most of the young men spoken to indicated very early initial experiences with cigarettes. Many talked about first trying a cigarette before the age of ten.”
So it should come as no surprise that while the new federal law called for merely the ban of candy-flavored cigarettes, flavored tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and flavored cigars are not against the law. And who then is surprised by the fact that these products are rising in popularity, especially among the grade-school aged crowd.
This trend is troubling. Any tobacco product that a child uses, whether it is a cigarette, cigar or chew, contains nicotine. Nicotine is a drug, a powerful drug. In 1988, the Surgeon General determined that the addictive properties of nicotine are similar to that of heroin and cocaine. One need not be a specialist in addiction to know the dangers of a child exposing their still maturing brain to any addictive drug, much less one as powerful as heroin.
This trend is also disturbing. Why? Because among other things, it highlights exactly the type of opponent that anti-tobacco advocates (and those hundreds of millions of Americans who actually do value our children’s lives) are up against – an industry who preys on our kids and, who short of federal regulation, have shown no willingness to stop preying on our kids, simply because it is obviously the right thing to do.
Kudos then, to Miami-Dade County, for attempting to join only New York City, Providence, R.I., and Santa Clara, CA, as the only municipalities that have banned flavored cigars and chewing tobacco.