Tobacco deal leaves youth vulnerable
An agreement prohibits flavored cigarettes in most states, including Hawaii.
A TOBACCO company's agreement to ban flavored cigarettes
will affect only products it currently has on the market, and even though R.J. Reynolds also has promised it will stop giving its smokes sugary names, no doubt it will continue efforts to entice young people to light up with similar products.
The state Legislature, which considered a bill last year to outlaw flavored tobacco, should revive the measure in the next session.
One of the cigarettes -- called "Kauai Kolada" and packaged with a lounging hula dancer design -- inflamed Hawaii officials, including Gov. Linda Lingle, who called the use of the island's name and the state's image to sell cigarettes to young people "disgusting."
The domestic ban, the result of a deal between the tobacco company and Hawaii, 39 other states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, restrains R.J. Reynolds from labeling products with names that allude to candy, fruit, desserts or alcoholic beverages.
It does not require the company to pull cigarettes already on store shelves. It also does not prohibit the company from offering new lines of flavored cigarettes and other tobacco products under different packaging.
R.J. Reynolds denied that it was aiming the cigarettes with names like "Twista Lime" and "Mocha Taboo" to young people, as it did with its Joe Camel campaign. However, flavored cigarettes proved particularly appealing to the age group.
A 2005 national survey by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute found that 20 percent of smokers ages 17 to 19 said they had smoked flavored cigarettes in the past 30 days while just 6 percent of smokers over 25 did.
The ban came after the Illinois attorney general's office began an investigation into whether R.J. Reynolds had violated a 1998 agreement under which tobacco companies pledged not to target young people in their marketing.
Though flavored cigarettes make up a very small portion of sales, tobacco companies see the age group as a future customer base for their addictive products and tasty cigarettes as a seductive ignition point.
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