Buying Cigarettes
I came - I saw - I bought

Encouraging new, 'fun' ways to smoke

"Hook 'em early, hook 'em for life."

This is a quote from an internal tobacco industry document regarding their marketing strategy: Find new young tobacco users to replace smokers who continually die prematurely of tobacco-related diseases. What a great business to be in: the profitable business of addiction.

Smoke-free laws sweep the nation with 29 states and hundreds of municipalities enacting smoking bans. It's rapidly becoming socially unacceptable to smoke in public enclosed places including worksites, restaurants, and bars. What is a smoker to do in these hostile times?

The tobacco industry has the answer for maintaining the next generation of tobacco-addicted people to preserve big profits for the corporations and their stockholders. What is this industry to do in these changing times?

Its response is new innovative tobacco products. No longer can the tobacco industry rely on cigarette sales with youth smoking rates dropping, the national adult smoking rate sinking to an all-time low of under 20 percent, and overall cigarette consumption plummeting.

The initial objective of the industry in a sinking smoking-tobacco market: Encourage new fun ways for young people to smoke. Sweetened little cigars and cigarillos in multiple flavors including mint, apple, wine, chocolate, vanilla honey and cherry have hit the market in a big way. Sales of cigarillos and little cigars have increased 150 and 240 percent respectively since 1997. Product names include Swisher Sweets, Captain Black, and Black and Mild. These products are subject to lower tobacco taxes and have fewer marketing restrictions than do cigarettes. They offer, especially to youth to which they are marketed, a novel and cheaper alternative to cigarettes. And of course since these diminutive cigars are easier to inhale, they are a great starter product to initiate the novice smoker. A safer alternative? Cigars are highly associated with heart disease, various other illnesses, and a variety of cancers including oral cancer. If little cigars are inhaled, the smoker is at risk for the full range of maladies associated with cigarettes including lung cancer.

The federal legislation establishing the FDA regulation of tobacco banned similar products of candy and fruit flavored cigarettes in September 2009. Unfortunately, the legislation did not specifically include small cigars, cigarillos and other sweetened smokeless tobacco products.

The industry response also includes new generations of smokeless tobacco. Products are also sweetened and flavored to appeal to youth. Snus is a spitless tobacco packaged in small teabag-like pouches and placed between the lip and gum. Marlboro and Camel are two popular snus brands.

Other innovations in smokeless tobacco are finely-milled sweetened and flavored tobaccos that dissolve in the mouth called Camel Orbs, Sticks and Strips. Produced by RJ Reynolds, all look and taste like candy, making them very appealing to children. Since each piece contains up to three times the nicotine of a cigarette, eating these products like candy could result in nicotine poisoning. This is especially true with toddlers who may find these sweet products and ingest them. They too are not safe alternatives to smoking; we know that smokeless tobacco carries significant increased risks for various cancers and other ailments.

Of course, tobacco-friendly Hoosierland was chosen to be a test market for snus and dissolvable tobacco products. Devised by the dark tobacco industry empire, these new ways to ingest carcinogens, toxins and nicotine underscore the necessity for the FDA regulatory powers over tobacco products.

Currently, legislation has been introduced in Congress that would diminish the FDA's authority over some of these alternative tobacco products. If enacted, this legislation would only serve to facilitate the tobacco industry's efforts to maintain adult nicotine dependence and lure our children into a lifetime of addiction.

Published: Friday, September 21, 2012

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