Flavored Products are Keeping Youth at the Hands of Big Tobacco

Flavored tobacco has been a great issue in the fight to stop youth tobacco use for a long time. In an attempt to reduce youth tobacco consumption, in 2009, Congress passed legislation that banned all cigarette flavors. Although this was a huge step forward, this ban failed to include all menthol tobacco products and flavored cigars. Recently, there has been more attention focused on flavored cigars and cigarillos (or little cigars) because their use among youth has significantly increased. With fruity and sweet flavors like chocolate, cherry, lime, margarita, white grape and many more, it’s not surprising that youth are drawn to giving these cigarillos a try which often times leads to repeated use. Another factor that may explain why the use of flavored cigarillos has increased, is the packaging. Cigarillos are sold individually or in small colorful packages for prices much lower than a pack of cigarettes. These cigarillos also come in sizes very similar to cigarettes.

I  have noticed cigarillos before, but never noticed the large quantity and diversity of cigarillos sold at stores until recently. I am well informed of the risks tobacco smoke poses for myself and for others around me, however, these facts aren’t as easily permeated into the everyday thoughts of some youth. Therefore, the abundance of these products in everyday retail stores, laid out in plain sight, can definitely contribute to the increasing number of youth who use these products.

According to an article from The New York Times, “flavored cigars now represent more than half of all convenience store and gas station cigar sales, up nearly 40 percent since 2008.” This is a huge number! The multiple flavors, low price and choice of buying a single cigarillo or small packs are all marketing tactics aimed toward certain demographics, particularly the youth. In the same article, a 19 year old mentions that “’If they take away the flavor…I’d probably stop smoking them. Or maybe I’d go back to cigarettes.’” There is also evidence that flavored cigars and cigarillos are also used to smoke marijuana. But the fact remains, whether flavored cigars are used for tobacco or marijuana, these products that come in flavors similar to candy are marketed toward the youth and the youth are responding the way tobacco interests prefer.

-Stacy Song


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