Dec. 11 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council have taken bold action to reduce youth tobacco use by prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol-flavored cigarettes, within 500 feet of schools. This ordinance, approved today by the City Council, will help prevent young people from becoming addicted to tobacco and starting on a path that all too often leads to serious disease and premature death.
We applaud Mayor Emanuel, who proposed this ordinance, and the City Council for their leadership in protecting Chicago’s kids from tobacco addiction. Chicago is setting an example for the nation in taking strong action to stop tobacco companies from using flavored products to lure kids into a deadly addiction.
For decades, tobacco companies have used flavorings to reduce the harshness of their products and make them more appealing to new users, almost all of whom are under age 18. Flavors increase the number of people, particularly kids, who try the product, become addicted and die prematurely as a result. According to a recent study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 percent of U.S. youth (grades 6-12) who currently smoke reported using flavored little cigars or flavored cigarettes. The report indicated that, despite a 2009 federal ban on candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes, tobacco companies continue to lure kids with cheap, sweet-flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes. These cigars come in kid-friendly flavors such as peach, strawberry, chocolate and grape.
There is also clear evidence that menthol cigarettes increase the number of kids who smoke. Earlier this year, a 153-page report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration underscored the serious public health problems posed by menthol cigarettes. The report reached three key conclusions, finding that menthol cigarettes lead to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking. In March 2011, an FDA scientific advisory committee found that menthol cigarettes have been disproportionately marketed to youth and African Americans. Prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products will help reduce tobacco use and its devastating toll.
In another important step, Chicago recently launched an ad campaign aimed at reducing use of menthol-flavored cigarettes by youth. Chicago is the first major city to run a large-scale ad campaign aimed squarely at curbing the use of menthol-flavored products.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation nearly $100 billion in health care bills each year. The tobacco industry never lets up in pushing its deadly and addictive products. Mayor Emanuel and the City Council recognize that they must be equally aggressive in working to protect our kids and save lives.