28th September 2009
When it comes to cigarettes, the federal government can blow smoke with the best of them.
When it comes to escorting kids into addiction, such cigarettes are more like the eye of a needle than a gateway. You would never know from the government’s pronouncements that the nation’s three major tobacco companies—R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and Lorillard—don’t even make them. Notorious lines like Warm Winter Toffee and Winter Mocha Mint were removed from the market years ago. The only flavor the major producers use anymore is menthol, which happens to be one the FDA chose not to ban.
When I asked an FDA spokesperson what portion of the cigarettes smoked by teens are flavored, she told me the agency doesn’t know. So how does it know they serve as “a gateway for many children”? How does it know that banning them will have any effect on the number of new tobacco addicts? Actually, it doesn’t.
Siegel says that teenagers smoke because they want to seem older. But smoking something that tastes like bubble gum sends the opposite signal. Even when flavored cigarettes were more widely available, the great majority of adolescent smokers found them about as appealing as a Raffi concert.