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Tobacco-Free Kids Welcomes Legislation Introduced in Congress to Protect Kids from Flavored Tobacco

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 05, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids Act (SAFE Kids Act), legislation introduced in Congress today to curb the use of flavors in tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and cigars. We applaud the bills’ sponsors, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD), for their leadership in working to stop tobacco companies from targeting kids with tobacco products in a huge assortment of appealing flavors. Prohibiting tobacco products in kid-friendly flavors is one of the most important actions we can take to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue reducing youth tobacco use.

Flavored products, especially Juul, have driven the skyrocketing youth e-cigarette epidemic, which is addicting a new generation of kids and threatens the enormous, decades-long progress our nation has made in reducing youth tobacco use. Between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use increased by an alarming 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). More than 3.6 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2018 – an increase of 1.5 million in just one year.

Youth use of other flavored tobacco products, including cigars, is also troubling. Cigars are especially popular among high school boys, who smoke cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes, and among African-American high school students, who smoke cigars at nearly three times the rate of cigarettes, according to the 2018 NYTS. Bloomberg News recently documented how tobacco companies have targeted African-American teens with candy- and fruit-flavored cigars.

Flavors are a key reason why youth are using e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. Flavors improve the taste and reduce the harshness of tobacco products, making them more appealing and easier for kids to try the product and ultimately become addicted. Youth often start using tobacco products with a flavored product and report that they use tobacco products “because they come in flavors I like.” E-cigarettes are sold in thousands of flavors, and flavored cigars make up more than half of the U.S. cigar market. These products come in flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, cherry dynamite and mango that clearly appeal to kids.

As this bill moves through the legislative process, we urge that it be expanded to prohibit menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes increase smoking initiation among youth and young adults, increase addiction, reduce smoking cessation and disproportionately harm the health of African Americans (seven out of ten African-American youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes). Over half (54 percent) of youth smokers ages 12-17 use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than one-third of older adult smokers.