Banning Menthol and Flavored Tobacco
A Major Way to Protect Youth
The younger someone starts to smoke or vape, the harder it is to stop. Tobacco companies know this, and they show no shame in their efforts to entice and addict children. How are they doing it? With flavors.
Flavored tobacco, vaping products and menthol cigarettes have grown increasingly popular with kids. Why? Because flavorings make it easier to start using tobacco or vape products. But the nicotine inside of them? It makes it way harder to stop.
New FDA Flavored Tobacco Regulations: Still Not Enough
This January, in response to public outcry and multiple hospitalizations, the FDA introduced new bans on flavored tobacco products. The move was an attempt to stall the youth vaping epidemic. While the ban is a good start, it doesn’t go far enough. Let’s explore why.
First, the ban applies only to replaceable cartridges or “pods.” It leaves tobacco and menthol flavored pods untouched. Why should you care? A 2016 study in Tobacco Control found 12-to-17-year-olds are most likely to use menthol cigarettes. More than 2 out of 5 survey respondents said the first cigarette they smoked was a menthol. This is no accident. Menthol delivers a minty, cooling sensation that masks tobacco’s harsh flavor. It’s perfect for hooking first timers. The implication is clear: menthol is Big Tobacco’s most valuable flavor.
The next problem: disposable vapes are designed for a one-use cycle. Once they run out of juice, you throw them in the trash. This distinction is critical because it allows disposables to skirt the FDA’s new ban. More worryingly, disposable vapes are much cheaper than non-disposables, creating the perfect storm for attracting youth sales — endless flavors at a discounted price. Another win-win for Big Tobacco.
The final major loophole applies to vapes with refillable tanks. Within this category, users can choose from an array of enticing flavors — and they can refill their tanks again and again. In total, refillable vapes account for 40% of vape sales according to the Wall Street Journal. This is another confounding exclusion to the flavor ban — but the story doesn’t end there.
On February 28th, 2020, health advocates scored a landmark victory. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would effectively prohibit the sale of ALL flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Now, its fate rests with the Senate, where it will face challenges from Big Tobacco’s political allies. Regardless of whether it ultimately becomes law, the bill’s initial passing is a tremendous step toward cementing the flavor ban movement in the national dialogue.
Take a long look at the policy landscape surrounding flavored tobacco, and one thing becomes overwhelmingly clear: there’s plenty of work to be done. The FDA’s new flavor ban leaves vast swaths of the vaping marketplace conspicuously untouched, emboldening Big Tobacco to profit at the expense of our youth. While the current policy is a good start, the fight to end the youth vaping epidemic continues. Show your support and see how other policy changes can protect our youth.
WHY ACT NOW?
Today, 4 out of 5 youth smokers will become adult smokers. It’s a number that Big Tobacco counts on to keep turning a profit. Since half of all adult smokers will die from smoking, tobacco companies need a constant stream of new recruits to stay profitable.
Kids and young adults use flavored tobacco products more than any other age group. By enacting stronger tobacco control policies that ban these flavored products, we can protect thousands of Oklahoma kids from a lifetime of addiction, disease and premature death.
7 out of 10 Oklahomans believe the tobacco industry targets children and young adults, uses flavors to entice them and lies about the dangers of smoking.
An overwhelming majority of Oklahomans agree that flavorings hook kids. It’s about time we do something about it. By modernizing our tobacco control and prevention policies, we can reverse the terrible toll of tobacco.
Show your support for this issue, and see how other policy changes can protect our youth too.