FDA bans flavored cigarettes to fight smoking by youths

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned flavored cigarettes last week in an attempt to stop teenagers and young adults from becoming dependent on tobacco.

One of the FDA’s first acts under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a new law expanding the administration’s right to regulate the tobacco industry, was to ban flavored tobacco Tuesday. This includes tobacco with a fruit or candy flavor, as well as clove cigarettes.

Menthol is excluded from the ban, but in a statement by the FDA, officials said they are looking for ways to regulate other tobacco products.

The new law also requires tobacco companies to post larger warning labels on packs of cigarettes and gives the FDA the power to demand lower amounts of nicotine and to control the type of advertisements on cigarettes.

Flavored tobacco was banned nationwide after the FDA found that teen smoking is often linked to it. According to a study cited by the administration, 17-year-olds are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes than smokers over 25.

“Flavored cigarettes attract and allure kids into lifetime addiction,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh. “FDA’s ban on these cigarettes will break that cycle for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily.”

Earlier this year the Lee County Health Department spearheaded the Tobacco Free Lee initiative, one that plans to cut tobacco use in the county. Currently, 20 percent of adults in the county smoke and the amount of youth using tobacco is higher than the state average.

In a behavioral risk survey given to Lee County students, 5.7 percent in middle school and 18.4 percent in high school said they have smoked in the last 30 days. Statewide, the amount is 5 percent for middle school and 14.5 percent for high school.

Women are also more likely than men to smoke in Lee County, 22.6 percent of women compared to 16.4 percent of men.

Major tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Inc. and other smaller companies, have filed a lawsuit against the FDA claiming that restrictions in the law are violating their First Amendment rights. Not every company sells flavored tobacco, but those that do are poised to lose millions of dollars.

Earlier this year the Florida Legislature issued a $1 tax on cigarette packs to not only raise funding for health programs, but to curb younger smokers from developing a dangerous habit. This also includes a 60 percent surcharge on wholesale tobacco.

By MCKENZIE CASSIDY, [email protected]
September 29, 2009

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