As of September 21st 2009 all flavored cigarettes including fruit, candy and clove flavored cigarettes have been banned in the United States of America. The ban itself came from the FDA, which was authorized to do so by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act signed into law by President Obama back in June. According to an FDA news release, this was done in order to curb youth smoking. Using the standard “Its for the Children” cliché the FDA 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,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “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.”
The FDA further claims:
“Flavors make cigarettes and other tobacco products more appealing to youth. Studies have shown that 17 year old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes as smokers over the age of 25.”(1)
So what study was this latest smoking ban based on? Well after a little searching, I found that the study cited was preformed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This is yet another case of basing law on biased studies. The RWJF, according to their own web page, among other causes, is on a mission to:
“Ensuring that our research triggered policy changes that curb tobacco use by developing an advocacy infrastructure that prompted public policy including increased taxes on tobacco products, smoke-free cities and states, and increased access to treatment for tobacco dependence. “ (2)
Also of interest is the RWJF is the offspring of co-founder of Johnson & Johnson, Robert Wood Johnson. RWJF is currently the largest single stockholder of Johnson & Johnson, with over 35,000,000 shares. Yes that’s over 35 million shares. J&J also just so happens to be the distributors of Nicoderm, Nicorette, and a few other stop smoking aids. J&J currently has the largest stake in the quitting smoking racket with annual profits well into the hundreds of millions of dollars. RWJF is putting out studies with the intent to make smoking more difficult and expensive, then are profiting on sales of these drugs designed to aid in those trying to quit smoking.
Does this sound like a group capable of conducting unbiased scientific tobacco research to you? So what exactly did they do to determine that flavored cigarettes are causing America’s youth to start smoking? Well, it turns out their so called “study” was nothing more than a phone poll.
Here is where it gets really interesting. According to their own study,
“Of the smokers in the NYSCS (National Youth Smoking Cessation Survey) (age range from 17–26 years), 11.9 percent reported flavored cigarette use in the past 30 days. Among the AHCSS (Assessing Hardcore Smoking Survey) sample (age 25 and older), 6.7 percent of smokers reported flavored cigarette use. “(2)
So, out of all the young smokers interviewed, only 12% of them had used flavored cigarettes within the last 30 days. That statistic, of course, was not used by the FDA when writing up the news release. Also of note is the missing data. In the study, they do not mention the number of people polled to gather the data. They also fail to take into account that these flavors were not available when smokers over the age of 30 began smoking. Since brand loyalty is common in adult smokers, it makes sense that less of them consume the newer flavored varieties than the younger smokers. That is just one more tell-tale sign that the science part of this study was disturbingly neglected.
The fact is cigarette companies have been unable to advertise to youth over a decade. They are not allowed to have commercials on TV, or place written ads in any publication that could even be considered attractive to youth. Children are indoctrinated, by the anti-smoking crusaders, at a very young age about how bad smoking is. The people who start smoking in this day and age have the knowledge that its unhealthy and are choosing to do so anyway. Plain and simple, they want to smoke and all the biased studies in the world are not going to stop that.
The only exception to this new flavored cigarette ban is menthol cigarettes. However, the FDA hasn’t commented on why menthols were exempt from this new ban. I would make an educated guess that menthols are being left out for two reasons. First, menthol cigarettes are a huge seller for US companies as opposed to the smaller market for US produced flavored cigarettes, and the Indonesian clove varieties. Banning menthol cigarettes would have triggered a lot more fight out of the American tobacco companies. In fact, the Altria Group Inc (owners of Phillip Morris), supported the ban, which they certainly would not have done if it had included menthols. This is not surprising since they do not produce any flavored cigarettes, aside from the exempted menthol type, and may actually gain customers who, up till now, smoked imported clove cigarettes or Camel’s Flavored cigarettes.
Second is the popularity of menthols. If they would have banned menthols on top of the cloves and fruit flavored specialty cigarettes, there would have been a far bigger public outcry about it. The fact that they left the most popular flavor off the ban list, shows that its not really about the teen smokers. In fact, aside from menthols, most flavored varieties of cigarettes were only sold in tobacco specialty shops which you can not legally even enter unless you are 18.
Don’t worry menthol fans, you will get your chance to have your freedom stepped on as well. The same news release states that they are “examining options for regulating both menthol cigarette products, and flavored tobacco products other than cigarettes.” (1) So they will get to you, its all about the baby steps.
The WTO (World Trade Organization) may force the issue sooner rather than later. Indonesian companies have already filed a complaint calling the law protective of US companies. Banning clove flavored cigarettes but not menthol flavored products could be considered a discriminatory trade practice which would lead to the WTO getting involved. This could force the US to either exempt cloves from the ban, just like menthols already are, or ban both type of cigarette.
Although non smokers are not directly effected and may even initially support this legislation I would suggest you think of the future implications of this type of law. After they have finished with tobacco, do you think its going to stop there?
Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Its not a far stretch that we will see them turn their swords on the “unhealthy” food markets next. In fact, the WHO (World Health Organization) has already proposed that countries begin taxing “junk food”. (3) If you know your history, this is exactly how they started fighting “Big Tobacco”. Still skeptical, well the same group that did the flavored tobacco study is already doing research pertaining to taxation of sugary beverages and how that would effect youth obesity. Included are sodas, sports drinks, sweetened tea, fruit drinks and punches, and other sweetened beverages. (4) Does that sound familiar? If they are banning tobacco products now, is it really that outlandish to think they will ban the foods they consider unhealthy somewhere down the line?
As Americans we have taken our freedom for granted. The second we started allowing the government to make laws based on the “its for your own good” principle we started down a slippery slope with no bottom in sight. Tax codes and laws are written to guide consumers along the road they want us to travel. Once enough people are following along like good little sheep, outright bans are instated. If we continue to allow these zealots to regulate our freedoms away it will not be long till we have no choices left to make at all. The question we really should be asking is, whats next?
FDA press release hosted on FDA Website Candy and Fruit Flavored Cigarettes Now Illegal in United States; Step is First Under New Tobacco Law
RWJF study cited by FDA Use of Flavored Cigarettes among Older Adolescent and Adult Smokers
Pittsburgh Post-gazette WHO wants ‘Twinkie tax’ to discourage junk foods
RWJF paper Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes and Public Health