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Study: Tobacco Companies Are Marketing Flavored Cigarettes to Appeal to Children in Latin America; Countries Must Act to Protect Kids

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 15, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Multinational tobacco companies are marketing a new generation of highly flavored tobacco products, like menthol, mint and fruit, that appeal to kids throughout Latin America. In many cases they are selling them near schools, according to a new study released today by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. While total cigarette sales are declining in Latin America, sales of flavored cigarettes are climbing. Most of the flavored cigarettes observed are sold by large, multinational tobacco companies such as Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.

This study shows that as Latin American countries have stepped up their efforts to reduce tobacco use in recent years, tobacco companies are finding new ways to target children and undermine the region’s progress. Despite their claims to the contrary, big tobacco companies like Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco continue to engage in harmful marketing practices that lure kids into this deadly addiction.

This study demonstrates the need for countries throughout Latin America to enact and effectively enforce strong policies to protect children, reduce tobacco use and save lives. Countries should ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. They should also enact comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships, which are needed to stop tobacco companies from marketing to kids and misleading consumers. Brazil can provide an example for the entire region and protect the health of its own citizens by implementing its regulation prohibiting cigarette additives, including flavorings, despite the continuing efforts of tobacco companies to stall this important measure.

The new study examined cigarette retailers within a radius of 100-250 meters around schools in five cities in Latin America: Buenos Aires, Argentina; La Paz, Bolivia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; and Lima, Peru. Key findings include:

  • 69 percent of retailers within the sampling areas sold cigarettes. Of these cigarette retailers, 85 percent sold flavored cigarettes.
  • The most common cigarette flavors found were mint or menthol. An additive commonly used by tobacco companies, menthol makes cigarettes less harsh and easier to smoke, especially for new users, and leads to increased smoking initiation among young people, greater addiction, and decreased success in quitting smoking, studies have shown. Other cigarette flavors found include fruit (such as cherry), alcohol (such as daiquiri and mojito), spices or nuts, and unconventional flavors described as “Double Click Crisp” or “Ice Blast.”
  • Flavored cigarettes were often displayed near other products commonly used by kids, such as sweets, snacks and sugary drinks, “thereby normalizing these harmful and addictive products in the context of products that attract the attention of children,” according to the study.
  • As noted previously, most of the flavored cigarettes are sold by large, multinational tobacco companies that claim not to market to kids.

As the study details, tobacco companies have long used flavored products to attract new customers, especially kids. Flavored cigarettes mask the harsh taste of tobacco smoke and make it easier for new users to start smoking.

This study demonstrates the urgent need for countries to act swiftly to stop tobacco companies from marketing their deadly and addictive products to kids.

The study was led by the Institute for Global Tobacco Control (IGTC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH). IGTC partnered with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Aliança de Promoçao da Sáude, Comisión Nacional Permanente de Lucha Antitabáquica, Educación Popular en Salud, Fundación InterAmericana del Corazón Argentina, and the Fundación InterAmericana del Corazón Bolivia.