Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tobacco Free Florida: Halloween Haunting - Candy Flavored Tobacco Products

Kid-friendly flavors, colorful packaging and scheming marketing campaigns target young people while masking the harmful tendencies of tobacco use.

The emergence of new candy-flavored tobacco products has parents, teachers, health advocates, physicians and communities rightly concerned. Cigarillos, cigars and a host of smokeless tobacco products - chew, snuff, snus, dissolvable tobacco - now come in such tantalizing flavors as pineapple, sour apple and chocolate. They are presented in bright and playful packaging and readily available at convenience stores throughout the state, much like Halloween candy.

These products, widely considered to be a gateway to a lifetime of tobacco addiction, have been proven to entice young audiences. In fact, use of all flavored tobacco products among youth is trending upward. In Florida, one in six kids between the ages of 11 and 17 had ever tried flavored tobacco, and youth erroneously believe these products to be less harmful than their non-flavored counterparts.

“It’s the ultimate guise,” remarked Kim Berfield, Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Health.“Youth are drawn in to the pageantry of these novel products and fall prey to the tobacco industry’s sweet deception.”

Youth have always been an essential target for the tobacco industry. Numerous internal tobacco industry documents reveal that the companies perceive kids as a key market, and develop products and advertising campaigns aimed at them. With traditional smoking rates on the decline in the U.S., the tobacco industry insures its livelihood by creating products and strategies that connect with a new generation of tobacco users.
I want to ensure that my peers understand that candy-flavored tobacco is not safer than cigarettes or other ‘plain’ tobacco products,” said Kareem Golden (Putnam County), SWAT State Chair. “I see these products more and more in my everyday life -- in magazines, at sporting events, at local convenience stores. Plus, with some of the new dissolvable products, no one even knows when you’re using them, so I urge people to resist the lure of these products.”

Candy-flavored smokeless tobacco products are also perceived to be less harmful; but in reality, these products contain more nicotine than cigarettes, and 28 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens), including nitrosamines, which are the most harmful. In addition, people who experiment with smokeless tobacco often develop a pattern of regular daily use.
Fortunately, the onslaught of flavored tobacco products has not gone unnoticed. The controversial candy-flavored cigarette was banned under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Actin 2009. However, menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, cigarillos and smokeless products were not included. Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is examining options for regulating these remaining categories of flavored tobacco products.

Many municipalities throughout the state of Florida have taken on candy-flavored tobacco head-on. In June, Sarasota County passed a resolution urging local vendors to cease the sale and marketing of all candy-flavored tobacco products. The Fort Myers City Council also signed a resolution that urges tobacco retailers to stop selling and marketing all flavored tobacco in the city limits.

Remember, candy-flavored tobacco products pose significant health risks. They can cause cancers of the mouth, lung, pancreas, esophagus, and larynx and possibly contribute to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory diseases.

Don’t be fooled by the most dangerous disguise of them all.  If you are looking to quit or would like to encourage someone to stop using candy-flavored tobacco, Tobacco Free Florida can help. Tobacco Free Florida offers a number of free and convenient resources to help all tobacco users quit.
  • Phone: Call the Florida Quitline at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW to speak with a Quit Coach who will help you assess your addiction and help you create a personalized quit plan.
  • Online: Enroll in the Web Coach®, which will help you create your own web-based quit plan that’s right for you, visit
  • In-person: Visit the Florida Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Network’s website,, to locate your local AHEC and sign up for Quit Smoking Now group classes. 

Tobacco Free Florida (TFF) is a statewide cessation and prevention campaign funded by Florida’s tobacco settlement fund.  The program is managed by the Florida Department of Health, specifically the Bureau of Tobacco Prevention Program.  TFF’s mission is to combat the pervasive problem of tobacco use in the Sunshine State, where each year, more than 28,000 Floridians die from smoking and tobacco-related diseases cost the state an estimated $19.6 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Since its inception in February 2008, TFF has reached millions of Floridians through advertising, grassroots initiatives, social media, and public relations efforts as a means of providing information and offer resources to help tobacco users quit.  Smokers and smokeless tobacco users interested in quitting are encouraged to call the Florida Quitline at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW to speak with a quit coach.  To learn about TFF and the state’s free quit smoking resources, visit or follow the campaign on Facebook at or Twitter at
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