Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Jupiter to Ban Flavored Tobacco Products, Except for Menthol Cigarettes; Policy Ensures There Will Be No Significant Decline in Youth Smoking

According to an article in the Palm Beach Post, the town of Jupiter (Florida) is considering passing a non-binding resolution that would ask stores in the town not to sell flavored tobacco products. Similarly, the city of Fort Myers is considering a resolution asking its stores to refrain from selling flavored tobacco products.

The justification for both resolutions: flavored tobacco products appeal to kids and secret tobacco industry documents reveal that the companies add flavors to their products to entice young people to use them.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story, of course, is that neither Jupiter nor Fort Myers truly has any sincere interest in curtailing youth smoking. If they did, then they would certainly choose menthol cigarettes as the first product to ban, rather than exempt the one flavored tobacco product that is actually used by an enormous percentage of Florida youths. Instead, policy makers in these two communities are taking a politically correct action: one that makes it look like they are doing something about the youth smoking problem, but which will actually accomplish close to nothing. The real problem - the use of the one flavored tobacco product that actually amounts to a substantial proportion of youth tobacco use - is left unaddressed.

Nearly half of Florida youths who start smoking use menthol cigarettes. Only a handful use other flavored tobacco products like snus or dissolvable tobacco. Banning flavored tobacco products with the exception of menthol cigarettes is not only a display of political cowardice, it is also highly hypocritical. It sends the message that it is not OK to try to entice youths with flavoring, unless you are eminently successful doing so and can get almost half of youths to use your products. If you can only get a smattering of kids to use your flavored tobacco product, then it must be banned. But if you can get close to a 50% market share with your flavored cigarette, then you're in business in the towns of Jupiter and Fort Myers.

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