Cancer Society Supports Flavored Tobacco Ban

On 1/5/11, the Assembly introduced legislation banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.  The American Cancer Society continues to be a strong advocate of this effort.  Below is our memo of support:


Memorandum In Support A. 288 (Paulin)

An Act to amend the public health law, in relation to prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products.

This measure prohibits the sale in New York of tobacco products, other than cigarettes, containing natural or artificial additives that impart to a tobacco product or its smoke flavors attractive to youth including, but not limited to, fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb or spice flavoring.  Menthol, mint and wintergreen flavors are excepted.  In no event shall a tobacco product be construed as flavored  based solely on the use of additives or flavorings in its manufacture, or their presence on an ingredient list.

In 2009, Congress enacted the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act granting the federal Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products and banning the use of flavors other than menthol in cigarettes.  However, other tobacco products, including "little cigars" (cigarettes wrapped in paper containing tobacco), cigars, snuff and other smokeless tobacco products were not included in the prohibition.  This bill corrects that oversight.

An important function of the flavorings affected by this legislation is to mask from tobacco product users, particularly new users, the harsh, toxic properties of tobacco smoke and spit tobacco.  Tobacco industry internal documents uncovered during the course of litigation show that manufacturers have long regarded flavored merchandise as "starter" products from which teenage experimenters will "graduate" to adult brands. 

One company memorandum depicts US Smokeless Tobacco's "graduation strategy" in a chart prepared by the company's marketing department.  The plan is to begin users with flavored Skoal and Happy Days brand products, and gradually promote them to the full-nicotine, tobacco flavored Copenhagen brand.  The memorandum describes: 

"Three products of three different tastes and strengths of nicotine:  a) High nicotine, strong tobacco flavor...b) Medium strength of nicotine...using a Happy Days product [Happy Days comes in three flavors "natural," "sweet" and "mint"]... c)Low nicotine, sweet product [Skoal]...Do we flavor this product with honey, chocolate or vanilla?"

In addition to mint, UST's Skoal brand today is sold in peach, cherry, apple, vanilla and berry flavors.  UST's marketing campaign has been tremendously successful.  From 1970, when it began, to 1991, the prevalence of snuff use among adult males more than doubled, and among males 18 to 24, it increased more than six-fold.  By 1990, more than one in four white male high school students in the U.S. used smokeless tobacco.

If anything, cigars, especially "little cigars," provide even more egregious examples of this marketing strategy.  Swisher Sweets come in cherry, strawberry, peach and grape flavors.  Captain Black little cigars are sold in "Peach Rum," "Tahitian Cherry," and "Madagascar Vanilla" varieties. And then there's HBI International, which produces wrappers in more than 30 flavors including Milk Chocolate, Absinthe, Tequila, Peaches & Cream, Mango, Bubblegum and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

This legislation would ban about 25 percent of cigars and less than 20 percent of moist smokeless tobacco currently sold.

Despite the federal ban on flavored cigarettes, flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products continue to inappropriately attract new young, users.  This bill is a much-needed step to protect our children and to reduce their risk of nicotine addiction and the subsequent lethal effects of tobacco. 

The American Cancer Society strongly supports enactment of this legislation. 

For further information please contact Russell Sciandra, 518-449-5438 ext. 12.


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