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Federal and state lawmakers are considering imposition of a ban on flavored cigarettes on the ground they induce young people into smoking, according to various media reports.
"Flavored cigarettes are a blatant example of how tobacco companies try to get kids to start smoking," Joel Spivak, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told MTV.com. "It's obvious who's using these cigarettes and it's not regular smokers. It's first-timers and kids."
The marketing of candy-flavored cigarettes has been universally condemned by public-health experts as being aimed at trying to get kids to experiment with smoking, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
A bill now before Congress seeking to empower the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products would also ban the sale of candy-flavored cigarettes. Similar bills targeting flavored cigarettes have been introduced in New York, Minnesota, West Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina and Texas.
New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo Jr. sponsored legislation earlier this year that would prohibit the sale of cigarettes laced with candy or fruit flavors. "The intent of this legislation is to prevent the [tobacco] industry of achieving its goal while we continue to protect our children," he said in a statement.
Tobacco companies have promoted their candy-flavored cigarettes -- which include such varieties as chocolate, vanilla, berry and lime -- in magazines like Elle, Rolling Stone and Cosmopolitan. In the winter, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. introduced its latest batch of Winter Blends flavored cigarettes, including Warm Winter Toffee and Winter Mocha Mint. These followed the release of its Summer Blends, including the coconut-and-pineapple-flavored Kauai Kolada. Recently, the company made the decision to stop advertising its flavored brands. However, the cigarettes will still be sold in stores, MTV reported.
Kretek International, a California-based manufacturer, stopped producing two of its flavored brands about two years ago when it drew fire for its bubblegum-like flavors. The Liquid Zoo cigarettes were criticized for their cartoonish packaging, MTV reported.
A study released two weeks ago by Dr. Gary Giovino, director of the Tobacco Control Research Program at New York's Roswell Park Cancer Institute, showed 20 percent of 17- to 19-year-old smokers have tried one or more varieties of flavored cigarettes in the past 30 days, compared to 6 percent of adults.
Giovino says the ban would be a good idea, but much more needs to be done in terms of the marketing that is influencing so many young people to light up.
"Graphic warning labels should be put on U.S. cigarette packs, similar to what's been done in Canada," he said. "The use of terms like 'light,' 'smooth' and 'mild,' or anything that depicts [cigarettes as] less hazardous should be banned, [and with flavored cigarettes], they all sweeten the poison."
The Associated Press reported that R.J. Reynolds' spokesperson Fred McConnell said the company is not targeting minors, but decided to stop advertising its flavored versions of its Camel brands. "We recognize use of certain names on Camel Exotics have resulted in unintended concerns," he said, according to the AP.
However, McConnell contacted CSNews to correct that quote; it should have read, "Camel Exotic Blends are marketed based on their differentiated flavor. However, we recognize that the use of certain names on a limited number of Camel Exotic Blends resulted in unintended perceptions and concerns regarding their appeal to minors. Consequently, we will avoid using language describing a fruit or candy in magazine and newspaper advertising, or point-of-sale communications in non-age-restricted venues."
The company is concerned the legislation to ban flavored cigarettes would lead to bans on conventional cigarettes. "Ingredients like cocoa, sugar, licorice and menthol have been used in cigarettes for 100 years," he said.
A separate study by the institute found that 8.6 percent of ninth graders in western New York have tried flavored cigarettes in the past 30 days.