New research from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that cigarette makers are targeting young smokers with candy and liqueur-flavored new brands that mask the harsh and toxic properties found in tobacco smoke, and in one case, embedding a hidden flavor pellet within the filter. Despite assurances from cigarette makers that they no longer target the youth market, the researchers found that new brands are being marketed to young smokers and racial/ethnic groups using colorful and stylish packaging and exploiting adolescents' attraction to candy flavors. The study appears in the November/December issue of the journal, Health Affairs.
The researchers sifted through a database of more than 7 million internal tobacco industry documents spanning more than 30 years for information on alternative flavors and flavor technology used in the development of products targeting new and younger smokers. Carrie Carpenter, lead author of the study and a research analyst at HSPH stated, "Flavored cigarettes can promote youth smoking initiation and help young occasional smokers to become daily smokers by reducing or masking the natural harshness and taste of tobacco smoke and increasing the acceptability of a toxic product."
A 1993 internal document stated, "Growing interest in new flavor sensations (i.e. soft drinks, snack foods) among younger adult consumers may indicate new opportunities for enhanced-flavor tobacco products that could leverage [a brand's] current strength among younger adult smokers."
Internal research by the tobacco industry showed manufacturers that they could capitalize on youths' attraction to candy flavors. They used innovative product technology, such as a flavor pellet imbedded in one company's cigarette filters, to deliver fruit and liqueur flavors. Some of the flavored cigarettes the companies have developed include; Mandarin Mint, Mocha Taboo, Mintrigue, Kauai Kolada, Margarita Mixer and others. Fruit and candy flavors were also added to smokeless tobacco products, cigars and cigarette rolling papers.
Gregory Connolly, senior author of the study and a professor of the practice of public health at HSPH noted, "Tobacco companies are using candy-like flavors and high tech delivery devices to turn a blowtorch into a flavored popsicle, misleading millions of youngsters to try a deadly product. Adding candy flavors to a toxic product (cigarettes) isn't any different than adding sugar to contaminated meat a century ago. The only difference is that today one is regulated by the FDA and the other is not."
Dr. Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation, a funder of the study, commented, "The public should recognize these products for what they are - a tool to lure younger smokers to their brands, and then potentially to a lifetime of tobacco addiction."
The study; "New Cigarette Brands with Flavors That Appeal to Youth: Tobacco Marketing Strategies; Health Affairs, November/December 2005, Volume 24, number 6, was funded by the American Legacy Foundation and the National Cancer Institute.
Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 300 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 900-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children's health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information on the school visit: www.hsph.harvard.edu
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