Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Four Years After Federal Ban on Flavored Cigarettes, CDC Reports that 35% of Youth Cigarette Smokers Smoke Flavored Cigarettes

The headline may sound like a misnomer, but it's actually true. It is four years after the federal government banned the sale of flavored cigarettes, according to the leading anti-smoking groups that boasted about that ban. Yet now, four years later, comes word that 35% of youth smokers are smoking flavored cigarettes. How is that possible?


In a press release issued by FDA when the flavored cigarette ban went into effect, Commissioner Hamburg stated: "Almost 90 percent of adult smokers start smoking as teenagers. These flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers. The FDA will utilize regulatory authority to reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco products to enhance our Nation's public health."

In the same press release, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Howard K. Koh also asserted that flavored cigarettes are causing youth to become addicted to tobacco and that the flavored cigarette ban would help prevent nearly 3,600 youths a day from becoming addicted. In the press release, Dr. Koh stated: "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."

Even more recently, Representative Henry Waxman also asserted that candy-flavored cigarettes are used by the tobacco industry to hook teenagers on cigarettes. He stated: "On the first anniversary of the historic Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, it is important to focus on the crucial protections and benefits the law has provided, and the additional safeguards due to take effect today. The new law gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products, as well as their advertising and marketing. Using this new authority, FDA banned candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes, used by the tobacco industry to hook children on tobacco."

The Truth

The truth, according to the recent CDC report, is that "35.4 percent of current youth cigarette smokers reported using flavored cigarettes."

The Rest of the Story

Clearly, Commissioner Hamburg, Assistant Secretary Koh, and Representative Waxman were lying to us. They were pulling the wool over our eyes, trying to make us think that the 2009 federal tobacco law would end the scourge of teenage addiction to flavored cigarettes. Alas, that was a lie. Here we are four years later and we find out that teen smokers are very bit as much addicted to flavored cigarettes as they were in 2009. What gives?

What gives is the honesty and integrity of the anti-smoking movement, its major organizations, and politicians who pretended to be champions of the public's health in supporting the earth-shattering Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 with its "critical protections" for our nation's youth.

The rest of the story is that rather than addressing the problem of the 3,600 youths a day who become addicted to smoking, the legislation instead was filled with window dressing. Instead of banning the one flavoring that about half of these youths were actually using, the Tobacco Act banned a host of candy flavorings that were being used by almost nobody. This gave the anti-smoking organizations and politicians the opportunity to pretend that they really cared about youth smoking addiction but without actually having to take a politically courageous act.

It is almost comical, then, to today see the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids complain about the 35% of youth smokers using menthol cigarettes, and call for a menthol ban. What the Campaign doesn't tell you in its statement is that it was the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids itself which was responsible for the failure of the Tobacco Act to ban menthol. Not only was the Campaign instrumental in crafting the legislation - which exempted menthol - but the Campaign actually opposed an amendment that would have removed the menthol exemption.

The Campaign's statement concludes: "Today’s study should prompt the FDA to act quickly to stop the tobacco industry from using flavored products to addict children and put them on a path to serious diseases and premature death." That is a bunch of crap, because if the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids had really wanted to act quickly to stop the tobacco industry from using flavored products to addict children and put them on a path to serious diseases and premature death, then it would have supported, rather than opposed the amendment to remove the menthol exemption from the legislation.

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