Minnesota kids are being tricked (and addicted) by flavored tobacco products

Minneapolis (10/30/18) – This Halloween, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is reminding parents, teachers and community leaders that many tobacco products aimed at youth closely resemble popular Halloween candies. The tobacco industry blatantly continues to use kid-friendly menthol, candy and fruit flavors to attract the next generation of smokers. These products include wild cherry cigars, Bubble Gang watermelon e-liquid, peach cigarillos, and Mint JUULpods – to name a few.

“The tobacco industry has not stopped their tricks to hook young tobacco users on their addictive and deadly products,” said Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs at ClearWay MinnesotaSM and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Big tobacco knows that 95 percent of addicted smokers start before age 21 and that’s why we continue to see thousands of flavored nicotine and tobacco products flood our schools, stores and homes. In the face of a youth nicotine addiction epidemic, lawmakers must do more to protect our kids.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 banned the use of most flavoring agents, except menthol, in cigarettes. However, that ban does not include other tobacco products such as little cigars and cigarillos, or emerging products like e-cigarettes. Internal documents from the tobacco industry show that tobacco companies know that young people are attracted to fruit, candy and alcohol flavors in tobacco products. Research also has found that most kids start smoking by using flavored tobacco products.

Flavored tobacco products have helped contribute to the first increase in youth tobacco use in 17 years in Minnesota. The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that more than 60 percent of youth tobacco users reported using flavored products in the past 30 days, and almost 40 percent of Minnesota high-school students have tried e-cigarettes, which come in candy and other kid-friendly flavors.

Flavored products mask the harshness of tobacco, but are just as addictive and dangerous as other products. Nicotine damages the developing adolescent brain whether it’s delivered in a cigarette, cigarillo, e-cigarette or other tobacco product.

Federal and state health officials are sounding the alarm on rising rates of youth nicotine and tobacco addiction. In a recent health advisory, the Minnesota Department of Health called youth nicotine addiction a major health concern because nicotine harms the developing adolescent brain and primes youth for addiction to cigarettes and other substances. Separately, the FDA recently said youth e-cigarette use is an epidemic and the agency is considering actions against e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers.

The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that youth tobacco use has risen for the first time in 17 years in Minnesota. The increase is due to a sharp rise in e-cigarette use and by the tobacco industry’s marketing, including kid-friendly flavors, prolific advertising, easy access and stealthy new products.

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November 1, 2018