Friday, October 29, 2010

New York City Enacts Feel-Good Measure that Accomplishes Nothing But Demonstrates Hypocrisy and Cowardice of City Council

Last year, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation that banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in the City. The legislation, unlike federal law, covers all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. Thus, not only are flavored cigarettes banned, but so too are flavored cigars, flavored cigarillos, and flavored smokeless tobacco.

The City Council boasts that this measure is going to reduce youth tobacco use, as many tobacco companies use flavorings to help entice young people to try these products.

The Rest of the Story

If you read the not-so-fine print of the legislation, it makes an exception for menthol, wintergreen, and mint.

Not coincidentally, menthol is the only flavoring that is actually used by cigarette companies to any extent and wintergreen and mint are the primary flavorings used by smokeless tobacco companies.

Thus, the City Council is claiming to care about protecting kids from flavored tobacco, but is actually protecting the tobacco companies' profits from a potential loss of sales that could occur if the Council really did ban the flavored products that young people are consuming.

This is nothing but a ruse. It is designed to make it look like the Council really cares about youth smoking and has the political courage to do something about it, but the reality is that it is an act of political cowardice and blatant hypocrisy.

What the Council is saying is: "We don't really want to have any effect on tobacco profits (thus the exemption for the only flavored products that kids actually consume), but we want to make it look like we are doing something to protect kids. So we are going to get the best of both worlds. Make it look like we actually care and are standing up to Big Tobacco. But don't actually do anything that would engender real political opposition, lower tobacco company profits, or reduce youth tobacco use.

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