Thursday, July 08, 2010

RJR's Flavored Cigarettes Were Taken Off the Market in 2006; Have Not Played a Role in Youth Smoking Since

While the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products would have the public believe that flavored cigarettes have been a major factor in youth smoking initiation during the past few years, and that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act put an end to this problem by banning flavors like mint, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, and strawberry, the truth is that all major mint, chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, and strawberry cigarettes were in fact taken off the market in 2006, due to a settlement reached between R.J. Reynolds and the Attorneys General in 41 states.

In that settlement, R.J. Reynolds agreed to remove Camel Exotic Blends, Salem Silver, and Kool Smooth Fusions from the market. These were the only major existing cigarette brands that contained candy or fruit flavorings at the time. Reynolds also agreed not to market candy- or fruit-flavored cigarettes in the future.

The FDA's Center for Tobacco Products as well as health groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids appear to have conveniently forgotten this important aspect of history. In their clearly disingenuous communications to the public, they have implied that these flavors remained on the market up until the present day, and that it was only the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which finally got rid of these flavored cigarettes, thus removing a major cause of youth smoking.

The truth, however, is that these products were voluntarily removed from the market by R.J. Reynolds in 2006, and that flavored cigarettes have therefore not been a factor in youth smoking initiation since that time. In addition, since no major flavored cigarette brands remained on the market that were smoked to any significant degree by youth (excluding menthol cigarettes, of course), the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act's ban on flavored cigarettes had no impact on preventing youth smoking, and no science base underlied this policy.

Had the health groups truly been concerned about the principle of preventing the use of flavorings to entice youth to smoke, they would have supported a ban on menthol cigarettes. To the contrary, they actually opposed the inclusion of menthol in the legislation.

Now, rather than admit the truth, they are hiding behind it by deceiving the public into believing that the FDA cigarette flavoring ban has actually accomplished something. The rest of the story is that this provision of the law resulted in the removal of not a single major brand of cigarettes from the market, offering absolutely no protection to children, and playing no role in preventing youth smoking.

Why the Center for Tobacco Products and the anti-smoking groups have to hide the truth and deceive the public, rather than simply telling the truth, is beyond my comprehension. Clearly, politics - and not science - is at work.

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