Tobacco companies target teens with sweet smokes

Published On: Oct 31 2012 04:59:24 PM EDT
Updated On: Oct 31 2012 04:59:54 PM EDT
Flavored-Tobacco

AP PHOTO

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

On a day when trick-or-treaters and candy reign supreme, Tobacco Free Florida is warning parents to pay attention to candy flavored cigars and snuff, which it says are being marketed to teens. One in three high school students reports they have tried smoking cigarettes at least once.

Teen smoking levels mirror those of adults; just under one in five. That's down from 27 percent 15 years ago when the state started its anti-smoking campaign. Now SWAT, or Students Working Against Tobacco, say they are being targeted once again through flavored tobacco.

"For instance, this orange tootsie roll flavor kind of looks like this cigar right here," said Matthew Goodson, Students Working Against Tobacco.

"So you think this is an obvious attempt to market to kids?"

"I definitely agree. I definitely think so," Goodson said.

Students said the flavored cigars are popular on this high school campus.

"Maybe the smoking of cigarettes are down, but you see a lot of people smoking "blacks," chewing tobacco," said one student.

Federal law already prohibits the sale of candy flavored cigarettes. But a loophole allows for cigars and other products. SWAT Coordinator Vincent Irving says the new products are a trick disguised as a treat.

"The Snus product is now marketed like a mint packaging. Like you see the small mints, just pop in your mouth, the same way this product is packaged, so it makes it a little bit more friendly for those who don't want people to know that they're using tobacco products," Irving said.

Dozens of cities and counties have passed resolutions opposing the sale of flavored tobacco products, but Florida law pre-empts all regulation to the state.

A spokesman for Altria, the nation's largest tobacco maker said his company was the only tobacco producer to argue in favor of the federal law banning flavored cigarettes. The law also requires merchants to keep tobacco products behind the counter and to require an ID for purchase. Altria does make some flavored smokeless products.

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