Cigarette Wars: US Curbs Smoking & Ryanair Encourages It

The US Food & Drink Administration (FDA) have announced that they will ban the sale of flavoured cigarettes in the US, a move which is directly aimed at trying to take away a product which mostly serves to encourage kids to begin smoking. All candy, clove and fruit-flavoured cigarettes are outlawed from today by the US government agency, and they have also announced that they are considering banning all menthol flavoured cigarette and tobacco products. Meanwhile, over this side of the Atlantic, Ryanair have announced plans to introduce the sale and use of smokeless cigarettes on all of their flights. According to Europe’s biggest carrier, while this is to produce extra income, it was the second most requested item/service on a recent survey of their passengers, so the airline are only really giving their passengers what they asked for. What a load of codswallop!

This is one of the most people-friendly policy’s which the FDA have come up with in many years. I personally never heard of candy-flavoured cigarettes, so while it sounds mightily positive, I’m a little mystified as to why these products would have been allowed onto the marketplace in the first place. But you only need to look at the alco-pops in the UK and Ireland to compare a product which is squarely aimed at kids. While the alco-pops question is for another day, today we should be happy with this mini victory for good long-term health, and for allowing our kids every chance possible of making their important choices when they get much older. According to an FDA press release put out today… “The FDA’s ban on candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes, effective today, highlights the importance of reducing the number of children who start to smoke, and who become addicted to dangerous tobacco products. The FDA is also examining options for regulating both menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products other than cigarettes”.

We would be very interested to hear from anybody who has some sort of perspective over the scope of these candy-flavoured cigarettes, particularly from our US visitors, so please do comment below, or drop us an email with your experiences if you prefer. They don’t sell them here in Ireland, and they may not sell them in the UK. If they are available in the UK, there is certainly not widespread availability, but you may be able to get them in speciality shops. What I do know is that in the UK and Ireland most kids begin smoking with normal flavoured cigarettes and tobacco. There are some menthol products available, but they are not hugely popular with kids. In my experience it is generally much older folk who smoke menthol flavoured cigarettes, and some people use them for cannabis joints too. But where the US, UK and Ireland don’t differ greatly, is the age of kids who begin to smoke. It is in the teenage years which many find themselves hooked. Most people I know, including myself, were smoking by the age of 13 to 15, and while some people have given them up in later years, a great many still enjoy their nicotine fixes. But I will say one thing, the smoking ban here in Ireland and the UK too - in all public places, buildings, pubs, restaurants, etc - has cut down the amount of cigarettes being smoked by many people. It has also created some awareness in younger kids about the damage caused by smoking. And that was purely from getting the subject into the public domain, through the debate over the ban itself.

This story about Ryanair offering smokeless cigarettes on their flights has been breaking for the past week, and they released a press release on Sunday (strange day to launch a product?) to alert their customers to this newly available product. Yesterday I was listening to a national radio show here in Ireland and one of the airlines spokespersons was talking about the initiative. He said, out straight, that this move was primarily for financial reasons, but that it actually came about due to a customer survey which had been done recently. Apparently after “banning fat people from flights” (his crass words, definitely not mine), allowing customers to smoke was the second most requested potential service. In Sunday’s press release, Ryanair mention that 24,000 passengers asked for this, and the spokesman portrayed the idea that the airline is only responding to customers’ demands and needs. I wonder how many customers were actually questioned, because that 24k may only be a tiny percentage of the overall total, which would lead one to believe that many did not request the service. Maybe they could do a similar sized survey and ask a simple question; should Ryanair introduce the sale and use of smokeless cigarettes onto all flights? That would hold more sway with me, because as one anti-smoking lobbyist mentioned during the same radio program, many people who smoke are actually glad to get that short break from smoking, when on flights. And most of Ryanair’s flights are under two hours, so it is no real hassle for smokers, and therefore this move is all about the cash. For each pack of 10 smokeless cigarettes Ryanair will charge €6, and currently in Ireland it costs about €8 for a 20 pack of normal cigarettes. Now if you could smoke 2-3 of these smokeless cigarettes on a 2 hour flight, what will you do with the rest of them? Will you begin to use these instead of real cigarettes? There is that possibility there, and this move will only serve to take away one of those clear situations where smokers know that they just cannot smoke. Instead this puts smoking back in your face, and is a shockingly selfish move by the Irish airline.

Whilst Irish brands like Guinness and Waterford Chrystal are revered here in Ireland, Ryanair has never enjoyed that kind of status. The morals and integrity of the company have always been questioned, and while most Irish people have been delighted with the availability of cheap European flights - mostly brought about by Ryanair’s aggressive actions - they also recognise that this comes with a price - low quality service and seating along with a range of somewhat hidden sub-charges for various items and services. The funny thing is, while Guinness and Waterford Chrystal are actually owned by foreign interests now, Ryanair remains a 100% Irish success story, having become Europe’s biggest carrier with 57.7 million passengers in 2008, and the World’s largest international carrier, so this negativity towards the company is purely based on the kind of service which they provide, and the way which they treat their passengers. This latest product - the ‘Similar Smokeless Cigarettes’ - will only add to that ill feeling amongst the local population here in Ireland, but that won’t bother Ryanair too much, as they serve Europe in it’s entirety. The Irish market is important to them, but their interests are generally spread. I never thought I would ever hear myself saying these words, but this industrial giant really should take the lead from the US Food & Drink Administration (FDA). They should stop encouraging smoking, nothing else is acceptable.

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