As the school year begins, our thoughts turn to what we hope young people will learn this year. As parents, teachers and others concerned with health, let’s be aware that youth are being targeted by the tobacco industry. Big Tobacco is sweet-talking our kids with products that are sweet, cheap, and easy to get. Fruit and candy flavors in little cigars, chewing tobacco, hookahs, electronic cigarettes and e-liquids attract youth and contain varying amounts of nicotine that can lead to nicotine addiction.
In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wisely banned flavored cigarettes (other than menthol) because of mounting evidence that the tobacco industry was using flavors to market to youth. Since then, the tobacco industry has been producing other tobacco products using the same flavor chemicals found in candy and soft drink products like Life Savers, Jolly Ranchers and Kool Aid. Yet they are not harmless. The tobacco industry is using these flavors to attract youth to products that are highly addictive because they contain nicotine.
In fact, the U.S Surgeon General found that tobacco companies use flavorings in smokeless tobacco products as part of a “graduation strategy” that encourages new users to start with flavored products with lower levels of nicotine and work their way up to more addictive products. Now the tobacco industry is circumventing the federal ban on flavored cigarettes by producing these other flavored products to establish a new route to addicting youth to nicotine.
What can you do? Talk with young people about this. Make sure they know that these tobacco products contain nicotine and are not harmless. Back-to-school season is a time when youth are learning new and important information for the first time; as concerned adults, let’s make sure they learn that flavored tobacco products contain nicotine.
For more information about these products and to learn how you can take action, visit GetOutraged.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 774-634-3955. Big Tobacco is trying to sweet talk our kids into a lifetime of tobacco addiction.
Program manager, Southeast Tobacco-Free Community Partnership