Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Anti-Smoking Groups are Full of Baloney, Claiming that Ban on Flavored Cigarettes Will Break Cycle of Addiction
The Truth: Not a Single Philip Morris or R.J. Reynolds Product Will Be Taken Off the Market Under Flavored Cigarettes Ban
According to statements from a number of anti-smoking groups and advocates in response to yesterday's implementation of the ban on flavored cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the ban will break the cycle of addiction for millions of young people who start smoking each year by getting rid of products that are very popular among these kids due to their sweet candy and fruit flavors.
The Department of Health and Human Services was quoted as saying: "Flavored cigarettes attract and allure kids into lifetime addiction. The FDA's ban on these cigarettes will break that cycle for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily."
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids stated: "As of today, tobacco companies will no longer be able to produce candy and fruit flavored cigarettes! While several provisions of law authorizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products have already taken effect, this is one of the most significant. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of advocates like you, the president signed it into law and kids are now protected from the lure of products like Camel's Twista Lime, Kauai Kolada, Margarita Mixer, Warm Winter Toffee, and Winter Mocha Mint to name just a few. This is a great day for America's kids... ."
A sample letter to the editor which the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is urging its constituents to send to local papers states: "Tobacco companies know that 90% of smokers started at or before the age of 18 and used candy flavorings for years to recruit new generations of customers. ... No longer will tobacco companies be able to produce cigarettes with brands such as Twista Lime, Kauai Kolada, Warm Winter Toffee and Winter Mocha Mint – which sound like candy. ... As an advocate who worked to pass this legislation into law, I’m thrilled that one of the first provisions to take effect will help keep another generation from falling prey to Big Tobacco’s deadly products."
The FDA was quoted as stating: "These flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers."
Senator Tom Harkin, a supporter of the Act, stated: "Banning the marketing and use of strawberry, chocolate and other flavored cigarettes will help slow the rate of addiction among young smokers, preventing disease and saving millions in health care costs down the line."
The Rest of the Story
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is telling the public that thanks to this new law, Camel's Twista Lime, Kauai Kolada, Margarita Mixer, Warm Winter Toffee, and Winter Mocha Mint will no longer be on the market and therefore, kids will now be protected from cigarette addiction.
However, the truth is that Camel's Twista Lime, Kauai Kolada, Margarita Mixer, Warm Winter Toffee, and Winter Mocha Mint were not on the market. R.J. Reynolds already withdrew them from the market several years ago after complaints from anti-smoking groups.
The rest of the story is that the new law will not result in the removal from the market of any cigarettes produced by Philip Morris or R.J. Reynolds - not a single one! Both Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have confirmed that they do not produce any flavored cigarettes that are covered by the ban, and thus, none of their products are affected by the new law.
The only products affected are a few flavored cigarette brands produced by minor cigarette companies that few youths were smoking to begin with. We have ample evidence of the brands that are responsible for youth addiction to cigarettes. Based on survey after survey, we know that these brands are Marlboro, Camel, and Newport. A full 87% of high school students who smoke are using one of these three brands.
None of these brands that are responsible for 87% of the cigarette market share among high school students contain candy or fruit flavors that are covered by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
There is, however, one flavoring that actually is used in many of the brands that kids are smoking. It is a very common flavoring used in cigarettes popular among kids. Let me think for a minute. The name escapes me.....I am starting to recall it.... oh, yes, it's menthol.
The one flavoring that is actually playing a role in helping to initiate the cycle of addiction among youths is exempt from the legislation's flavored cigarette ban.
In other words, all of these quotes from anti-smoking groups, advocates, and policy makers are completely full of crap.
It is simply not true that the "partial" ban on flavored cigarettes is going to "break the cycle of addiction for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily."
It is not true that Camel's Twista Lime, Kauai Kolada, Margarita Mixer, Warm Winter Toffee, and Winter Mocha Mint were taken off the market due to the new law. These products were already off the market.
It is not true that cigarette companies used candy flavorings for years to recruit generations of new customers. Unless you consider menthol to be a candy flavoring. What cigarette companies have been using to recruit new smokers is Camel, Newport, and Marlboro and in particular - menthol varieties of these brands.
It is also not true that "these flavored cigarettes [the banned ones] are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers." What is a gateway for many young people are menthol cigarettes.
It is also false that the flavoring ban will "help keep another generation from falling prey to Big Tobacco’s deadly products." The ban does nothing to help the next generation from falling prey to Big Tobacco products because it wasn't these flavored products to which they were falling prey!
Similarly, it is unscrupulously deceptive to claim that "banning the marketing and use of strawberry, chocolate and other flavored cigarettes will help slow the rate of addiction among young smokers, preventing disease and saving millions in health care costs down the line." It will do nothing of the sort because young smokers are not smoking strawberry, chocolate and other flavored cigarettes. They are, however, smoking menthol cigarettes in large numbers.
The rest of the story is that these anti-smoking groups are unscrupulously deceiving the public about the effects of the cigarette flavoring ban, making dishonest statements about the law's effects, and failing to tell the public that the one flavoring which would actually make a difference in youth smoking, if banned, was exempt in the law specifically to protect the interests of Philip Morris.
As the Alligator editorialized so insightfully, yet simply: "If the Food and Drug Administration wanted to prevent people from picking up smoking, menthol cigarettes would be included in the ban on flavored tobacco. On Tuesday, the sale of cigarettes flavored with anything other than menthol became illegal. According to The New York Times, mentholated cigarettes are exempt partly because they are viewed as politically off-limits. Without lobbyists from companies such as Philip Morris USA, the legislation to allow FDA regulatory power over the tobacco industry might not have ever passed. ... If the FDA was serious about preventing people from smoking, it would not make itself beholden to tobacco lobbyists worried about revenue losses and count menthol cigarettes as flavored."
And as I was quoted in yesterday's NPR story about flavored cigarettes: "It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to say look, we're going to ban cigarette flavorings because they're so important, but we're going to exempt the one that's actually used the most. You know, you need to be consistent. If it's so important that we ban cigarette flavorings, then ban them."
According to the NPR story, Matt Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids responded by conceding "that regulating such a popular ingredient is a complicated task, far more so than banning exotic flavors like pineapple or grape."
In other words, it's easy to ban exotic flavors like pineapple and grape because no one is smoking them, so there's no opposition to banning them. But millions of people actually use menthol so it's complicated to ban it.
Fine, then don't ban it. But don't get in front of the American public and tell them that by banning the seldom-used grape and pineapple cigarettes, you have helped "keep another generation from falling prey to Big Tobacco’s deadly products."
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is simply full of crap.