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Letter: Fruit-flavored tobacco products still out there

Dear Editor:

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, the Town Council of Glen St. Mary passed a resolution urging tobacco retailers to adopt a voluntary retail policy to prohibit and or restrict the sale and marketing of candy-flavored tobacco in Glen St. Mary. They join the City of Macclenny and Baker County as well as 245 other city and county municipalities in Florida that have passed similar resolutions.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration began regulating tobacco. They outlawed the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes because the products and advertising were targeting children. However, flavored tobacco products such as cigars, cigarillos, blunts, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco and electronic cigarettes were not included and are not regulated by the FDA. They are not taxed as heavily as cigarettes and they are cheaper.

Many of the cigars and cigarillos are sold singly and can be bought for less than a candy bar. A variety of fruit flavors are available locally  and they are packaged in bright colors, have the same flavors as candy and they are designed to target youth. The sweet flavorings mask the taste of tobacco and the products are perceived to be less harmful while in reality they contain more nicotine than cigarettes. Many of these products are placed on counters and are within easy reach.

One out of four Baker County youths have tried flavored tobacco. The 2014 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey shows that the tobacco usage rate of Baker youth is 24.0% compared to a state rate of 9.2%. Ninety percent of tobacco users start in their teens, they become addicted and may continue use for life. Tobacco kills 88 Floridians each day and 480,000 Americans each year. It is the most preventable cause of death.

Resolutions such as this one bring to light the loophole that exists in tobacco regulation. The large number of them adopted in Florida should serve to prompt the FDA to take action. A year ago, the FDA proposed extending its authority of rule over these unregulated tobacco products but that rule has yet to become final.

If you are a parent, grandparent or guardian and were unaware of candy-flavored tobacco products, check them out. Most convenience stores have a large variety. Notice the types, the flavors, the packaging and the low prices and you will see how they can be a lure to youth.

To help protect youth from tobacco, adults are urged to join the Baker Tobacco Free Partnership. Youth between the ages of 11 – 17 can join SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) and become advocates for a tobacco free future. Call 653-5246 for more information.

Pam Jeralds

Baker Tobacco Free Partnership &

Students Working Against Tobacco

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