The Food and Drug Administration banned flavored cigarettes, citing youthful first-time smokers who may be more attracted to cherry cloves than a cigarette.
I’m an on-again, off-again kind of smoker; so when it was announced last Tuesday that a ban was placed on the sale of flavored cigarettes, I wasn’t really surprised or bothered – until I found out why.
An article from the Sept. 22 edition of the New York Times titled “Flavors banned from cigarettes to deter youths,” said officials initiated the ban to protect children and teenagers from being drawn to the tobacco industry by flavored cigarettes.
Issuing bans and citing “the safety of children” as the reason is becoming increasingly overused in the United States.
I was 18 by the time I smoked my first cigarette, and I’ve smoked all kinds – lights, menthols, cloves.
According to statistics and data from the Food and Drug Administration, the article said 22.8 percent of 17-year-old smokers in 2004 used flavored cigarettes, compared to 6.7 percent of smokers older than 25. Young smokers said they used flavored cigarettes over the garden-variety product because they felt they were “safer.”
I consider the FDA and any research it publishes to be reliable, but this time, it seems the data is somehow skewed, or the FDA needs to complete further studies on the possible impact of flavored cigarettes on U.S. youth.
Many smokers I know started out smoking old-fashioned Marlboros, Camel Lights or Camel Menthols. Friend, fellow smoker and senior political science major Olivia Webster said she thought the idea that younger smokers were more apt to smoke flavored cigarettes was absurd.
“I doubt banning clove or flavored cigarettes will have a big impact on keeping [youth] from smoking,” she said. “Most people I know didn’t start with cloves.”
On Main Campus alone, I see more cartons for Camel Lights and Marlboro Menthol Lights than I do packs of Djarum Cherry. And even though a pack of Djarum Cherry cigarettes may appeal more to a student’s tastebuds than a pack of Camel Lights, a Djarum pack costs nearly $10, whereas a pack of Camels usually costs somewhere between $5 and $6.
Timothy Essex, a junior English major, said he found out clove cigarettes were banned after he tried buying a pack soon after the ban was passed.
“It’s kind of stupid,” Essex said. “Kids aren’t going to be going in and buying clove cigarettes.”
Unless these 17-year-old youngsters come from wealthy families or have high-paying jobs, it’s difficult to believe they were smoking flavored cigarettes as frequently as the FDA reports. And if the cited younger class of smokers were purchasing cloves or flavored cigarettes instead of a regular pack because they feel they are “safer,” they aren’t too bright.
Flavored and clove cigarettes, also known as kreteks, have a side effect that numbs the throat and inhibits the gag reflex causing something the American Medical Association calls “aspiration pneumonia,” or pneumonia that’s caused by substances entering the body orally or through the lungs.
To think any form of smoke that enters the lungs would be “safer” than another is absurd. Once you start smoking, you’re traveling down a path that usually ends in major health problems.
The FDA and its health officials should concentrate on the ways smoking has been marketed toward youth, such as candy cigarettes. It should be fighting to eliminate cigarettes marketed for sweet teeth, a marketing campaign geared toward kids that can subliminally give children the impression that smoking is OK.
Access to cigarettes is clearly another problem. After all, how are so many minors sneaking off to the parking lot after school to light up?
The FDA’s intentions are noble – smoking leads to cancer and other health complications (the reason I myself am trying to quit) – but the explanation for the ban is weak.
Cigarettes in general are the real problem. Consider placing extreme regulations on the tobacco trade as a whole because most smokers I know weren’t exhaling cherry- or vanilla-flavored smoke when they first got hooked on cigarettes.
Joshua Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.