Public Health

Sweet Lies About Kids and Smoking

The FDA's new ban on flavored cigarettes won't prevent teen smoking


At least since 1994, when seven tobacco executives testified before Congress that they didn't think cigarettes were addictive, the public has not put great trust in those who sell carcinogens for a living. What Americans may not realize is that they also shouldn't believe the people who are supposed to protect us from tobacco. When it comes to cigarettes, the federal government can blow smoke with the best of them.

That became clear the other day, when the Food and Drug Administration announced it was prohibiting the sale of cigarettes with candy or fruit flavors. "These flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers," said Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. The ban, said Howard Koh, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, "will break that cycle [of addiction] for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily."

Sure it will. And I'm Megan Fox.

When it comes to escorting kids into addiction, such cigarettes are more like the eye of a needle than a gateway. You would never know from the government's pronouncements that the nation's three major tobacco companies—R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and Lorillard—don't even make them. Notorious lines like Warm Winter Toffee and Winter Mocha Mint were removed from the market years ago. The only flavor the major producers use anymore is menthol, which happens to be one the FDA chose not to ban.

Only a few small companies still offer the sort of flavors targeted by the government. According to one maker, Kretek International, these cigarettes account for less than two-tenths of 1 percent of all U.S. sales.

When I asked an FDA spokesperson what portion of the cigarettes smoked by teens are flavored, she told me the agency doesn't know. So how does it know they serve as "a gateway for many children"? How does it know that banning them will have any effect on the number of new tobacco addicts? Actually, it doesn't.

In any case, the number of kids using these products can't be very large. Michael Siegel, a physician and public health professor at Boston University, says that 87 percent of all high school smokers choose Marlboro, Camel, or Newport, which don't come in tutti-frutti flavors.

No surprise there. Siegel says that teenagers smoke because they want to seem older. But smoking something that tastes like bubble gum sends the opposite signal. Even when flavored cigarettes were more widely available, the great majority of adolescent smokers found them about as appealing as a Raffi concert.

The government's figures on kids who start smoking are equally deceptive. When the assistant HHS secretary says 3,600 youngsters start smoking daily, he's not using those terms in the way most people would. I smoked a couple of cigarettes in my youth, but I never "started smoking," any more than I "started speaking Chinese" the one time I attended a Mandarin class.

It's true that 3,600 kids under the age of 17 try cigarettes for the first time every day, but that doesn't mean they will all become nicotine junkies. Many if not most of the experimenters soon lose interest. By the government's own account, only about 1,000 teens each day become daily smokers. For a lot of adolescents who "start smoking," there is no cycle of addiction to break, because they manage to avoid addiction on their own.

Lost in the government's propaganda is that if the tobacco companies are trying to recruit kids into smoking, they are doing a very poor job at it. Last year, the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey found that smoking among high school seniors is at the lowest level in the 33 years the project has been keeping track. Among 8th-graders, tobacco use is down by two-thirds since the mid-1990s; among 12th-graders, smoking rates have fallen by nearly half. Only 11 percent of 12th-graders smoke every day.

It would be a good thing for adolescent health, of course, if none of them did. Maybe that will happen eventually, but banning sweet cigarettes isn't likely to speed the day.


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28 responses to “Sweet Lies About Kids and Smoking

  1. You can take my tutti-frutti cancer stick, but you can never take MY FREEDOM!

  2. Did real mint flavored cigarettes get banned? I enjoyed the Nat Sherman mint ones from time to time. Weird fucking world if the real thing got banned before menthol.

    On topic, kids that stand outside liquor stores ask for Marlboro reds or Lucky Strikes. I’d guess teenagers have been asking for the strong cigarettes since the 40’s.

  3. Nat Sherman has started making a menthol to replace its mint flavored cigarettes. The company says that no other change has been made, but, while it is an excellent smoke, it’s not mint.
    On another matter, any person, young or old, who smokes cloves is already a dedicated smoker. Those things can be harsh, and enjoying them requires that the lungs be fairly well-adapted to smoking

  4. God damn it, the hint of mint was great. I also enjoyed the hint of clove. The world is now officially a shittier, less free place.


    Wednesday, March 12, 2008
    British Medical Journal & WHO conclude secondhand smoke “health hazard” claims are greatly exaggerated

    The BMJ published report at:

    concludes that “The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer are considerably weaker than generally believed.”

    What makes this study so significant is that it took place over a 39 year period, and studied the results of non-smokers who lived with smokers….. meaning these non-smokers were exposed to secondhand smoke up to 24 hours per day; 365 days per year for 39 years. And there was still no relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality.

    In light of the damage to business, jobs, and the economy from smoking bans the BMJ report should be revisited by lawmakers as a reference tool and justification to repeal the now unnecessary and very damaging smoking ban laws.

    Also significant is the World Health Organization (WHO) study:

    Passive smoking doesn’t cause cancer-official
    By Victoria Macdonald, Health Correspondent

    ” The results are consistent with their being no additional risk for a person living or working with a smoker and could be consistent with passive smoke having a protective effect against lung cancer. The summary, seen by The Telegraph, also states: ‘There was no association between lung cancer risk and ETS exposure during childhood.’ ”

    And if lawmakers need additional real world data to further highlight the need to eliminate these onerous and arbitrary laws, air quality testing by Johns Hopkins University proves that secondhand smoke is up to 25,000 times SAFER than occupational (OSHA) workplace regulations.

    The Chemistry of Secondary Smoke
    About 94% of secondary smoke is composed of water vapor and ordinary air with a slight excess of carbon dioxide. Another 3 % is carbon monoxide. The last 3 % contains the rest of the 4,000 or so chemicals supposedly to be found in smoke? but found, obviously, in very small quantities if at all.This is because most of the assumed chemicals have never actually been found in secondhand smoke. (1989 Report of the Surgeon General p. 80).

    Most of these chemicals can only be found in quantities measured in nanograms, picograms and femtograms. Many cannot even be detected in these amounts: their presence is simply theorized rather than measured. To bring those quantities into a real world perspective, take a saltshaker and shake out a few grains of salt. A single grain of that salt will weigh in the ballpark of 100 million picograms! (Allen Blackman. Chemistry Magazine 10/08/01).

    – (Excerpted from “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains” with permission of the author.)

    The Myth of the Smoking Ban ‘Miracle’
    Restrictions on smoking around the world are claimed to have had a dramatic effect on heart attack rates. It’s not true.

    As for secondhand smoke in the air, OSHA has stated outright that:

    “Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.”
    -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec’y, OSHA, To Leroy J Pletten, PHD, July 8, 1997

  6. Banning clove cigarettes will destroy teen goth culture utterly.

  7. Well, silver lining in every cloud and all that, eh?

  8. Even when flavored cigarettes were more widely available, the great majority of adolescent smokers found them about as appealing as a Raffi concert.


  9. “Banning clove cigarettes will destroy teen goth culture utterly.”

    Now if only we can get menthol banned and take down the hip hop culture as well.

  10. Anonymous | September 28, 2009, 7:41am | #
    You can take my tutti-frutti cancer stick, but you can never take MY FREEDOM!

    Obama wants me to tell you, “wait, and see!”.

  11. Only dudes and fools smoke candy flavored cigarettes.

  12. I doubt the validity of second-hand smoking effects. I doubt that banning flavoring is an attempt to disuade kids from smoking.

    But, smoking causes heart problems. Smoking can cause lung, esophogeal and mouth cancer. Not to mention sleep apnea, halitosis, and a myriad of other health problems.

    Over all, smoking is a problem. This is coming from a smoker.

  13. Over all, smoking is an individual’s health problem problem, and not the purview of government. This is coming from a smoker.

    T, FTFY.

  14. Over all, smoking is a problem. This is coming from a smoker.

    It’s not the government’s problem.

  15. Damn you, mysterious number sign!

  16. I no longer give a rat’s ass if I’m perceived as cool. I’d love to sample vanilla or anise flavored cigarettes. I’ll bet it would be an improvemnt over the off-brand menthols (Maverick) I now destroy lung cilia with.

  17. Teenagers don’t smoke cigs anymore because it’s not cool at all, they fucking stink. Instead, the cool thing is to drink or smoke weed, which both stink considerably less. Besides, we all know it’s cooler to alter your mind!

  18. I, for one, can’t wait for the awesome black market smokes which will result from this new prohibition. The smoke wars, they have begun.

  19. Instead of banning things that are ubiquitous (thus risking a black market) why doesn’t the gov’t just subsidize Chantix for those who want it as part of comprehensive healthcare reform?

  20. Teenagers don’t smoke cigs anymore because it’s not cool at all, they fucking stink. Instead, the cool thing is to drink or smoke weed, which both stink considerably less. Besides, we all know it’s cooler to alter your mind!


    Weed is much less deadly.

  21. this really pisses me off. one of my bestfriends smoke Sweet Dreams cigarettes, usually the French Blend (Vanilla) or the Chocolate kind. now it looks like we might have to switch to using plain cigs and using this additive you can put on cigs to make them flavored, I’m pretty sure they are really meant to flavor cannabis but oh well I’ll have to try using it for that too lol
    one thing that really sucks is that Dreams also have flavored filter tips so they are really unique.
    if this law gets struck down as unconstitutional for the first amendment issues will the whole law get thrown out?

  22. Cloves are for hardcore smokers?

    Holy Shi-ite! I had no idea. I figured that since the only people I knew who ever smoked them were me and my poser buddies in high school, they must be as lame as all the other stuff we tried because we thought that is what the cool kids were doing.

    Maybe we were smoking the wrong type though because none of us ever began a decent smoking habit.

  23. Hold on a second, is the government strengthening a monopoly on the cigarette industry held by the major manufacturers?

    As this article states, only the much smaller companies produce these candy and fruit flavored cigarettes. That means the smaller companies would lose a bit of market share and increase the profits of the bigger companies.

  24. Instead of wasting all this time on flavored cigs, we should think about something really important.

    I would love to start getting flavored crack !

  25. Let’s all switch to Cracklin’ Oat Flakes, now with Ecstasy!

  26. I’m contacting you with the concerns of the current ban on flavored cigarettes. I currently do not smoke, but on occasion I have done so… with these products that have been banned. Isn’t this the “Land of the Free, and the home of the Brave?” Isn’t it MY decision on what products I buy? I don’t care if the product “attracts” younger smokers, as isn’t it the responsibility of the buyer to make his or her own decision? What about alcohol? There are several flavored alcoholic drinks that attract younger drinkers, why aren’t they banned? I’ll tell you why. The government gets their fair share of profit on alcohol. This is the biggest showing of communism this country has seen, and Americans are oblivious. Aren’t I supposed to be proud that I’m American? Whats next? Every American HAS to buy a GM(Government Motors) vehicle? What gives? Does one have to move to Canada to be “free?” Over the past year, I’m beginning to see how close to communist our “democracy” really is.

  27. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets

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