Thursday, December 08, 2011

Menthol Cigarette Use Among Youths Soars While Anti-Smoking Groups and Policy Makers Congratulate Themselves for Getting Rid of Flavored Cigarettes

According to an article on the Minnesota Public Radio web site, the Minnesota Department of Health reported this week that no progress has been made in recent years in reducing smoking among youth. According to the article: "Public health officials are disappointed with new findings that show there has been no significant change in tobacco usage among teenagers during the past few years. The Minnesota Department of Health survey shows that among high schoolers tobacco use remains stagnant, at around 26 percent."

Perhaps the most striking finding of the survey is that "the use of menthol cigarettes has more than doubled among teenage smokers in the past decade."

According to the Minnesota Department of Health's press release, in 2000, menthol cigarette use among high school students in Minnesota was 19.9%. In 2011, the prevalence of menthol cigarette use rose to 47.3%. There was a substantial increase in menthol cigarette use in the past three years, from 39.1% in 2008 to 47.3% in 2011.

The Rest of the Story

These findings stand in stark contrast to the proclamations of anti-smoking groups and policy makers that the Tobacco Act put an end to flavored cigarettes and eliminated the tobacco industry's ability to addict kids with flavored cigarettes.

For example, in a communication sent to the American Cancer Society's (ACS) network of advocates throughout the nation in June 2009, the American Cancer Society stated: "Our nation's children – potential first-time smokers – will no longer be seduced by flavored tobacco products, including candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes, which will be banned." Thus, the American Cancer Society claimed that the Tobacco Act bans all flavored tobacco products that might seduce children.

In a press release issued by the FDA in 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health stated that: "Flavored cigarettes attract and allure kids into lifetime addiction. FDA's ban on these cigarettes will break that cycle for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily." Thus, the Department was claiming that all flavored cigarettes were now banned and that this policy would have a major impact on reducing the use of flavored cigarettes among youth.

The truth is that the use of flavored cigarettes among youth has increased, not decreased since the implementation of the Tobacco Act.

The rest of the story is that while the national anti-smoking groups and policy makers congratulate themselves for having protected youths from addiction by flavored cigarettes, the proportion of youths smoking flavored cigarettes appear to be higher now than ever before.

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