Flavored tobacco ban barely noticeable

By Tori Lewis
On September 29, 2009

Last Tuesday, Federal Drug Administration policy went into effect banning all flavored tobacco products in the U.S. under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, their first big move since they gained the control to regulate the tobacco industry this summer.

            Thought to be a gateway product that appeals to the youth, the ban is aimed at deterring younger age groups from smoking. But on UNH's campus, many don't think this effort will have an immediate effect on college-aged student smokers.

            "I really think their goal here was to make a large impact in the middle school, early high school age," said Ann-Marie Matteucci, an alcohol, tobacco and general drug educator at Health Services. "I don't know how many college students say, ‘let's go smoke a cherry cigarette.'"

            Convenience stores in Durham have discontinued the sale of these products under the newly enforced law, and many have been clearing out their stores for months in preparation.

            "Right now we have no more flavored cigarettes," said Campus Convenience employee Manjit Singh.  "We got rid of them all a long time ago, about two months ago, when we started hearing about this in the news."

            However, owners and employees have barely seen a disparity in sales since the ban.

            "There's been a very minimal change in sales, not much at all," said Caroline Sabine, owner of Store 24, who stopped selling flavored cigarettes last Monday. "I don't think it's going to make much of a difference actually."

            Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. A New York Times article said that 3,600 children and teenagers begin smoking every day; 1,100 of which become daily smokers.

            According to the FDA, 22.8 percent of 17-year-old smokers reported using flavored cigarettes in the past month, and 60 percent of a surveyed group of youth smokers between the ages of 13 and 18 believe that flavored cigarettes taste better than regular ones.

            The act, which reads that "a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke", is aimed at reducing the number of children that start smoking.

            "Flavored cigarettes seem to be targeting youth," Matteucci said. "If the FDA is finding ways where they can create legislation to allow the adult smokers to continue smoking as a personal right and try to prevent the youth from smoking, it makes sense that they would hit this first."

            However, many see this legislation as ineffective.

            "The FDA is behind the curve because the ban is only on cigarettes," Sabine said. "The difference between cigars and cigarettes is established by weight. The manufacturers will just make a heavier cigarette, flavor it, and call it a cigar."

            Students agree that flavored cigarettes can be a draw toward smoking, yet believe it's not a key component of the $96 billion tobacco industry.

            "I began smoking three years ago," said junior Caitlin Corrigan. "I primarily started buying chocolate cigarettes after trying them once and realizing they taste really good, but it's not the flavoring people become addicted too, it's the nicotine. This will not stop me from buying cigarettes."


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