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Jun 28

Flavors the new focus of Big Tobacco

Posted on June 28, 2019 at 12:09 PM by Katie Combs Prichard

Vaping has been declared an epidemic among youth, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. So why the rapid increase in youth using tobacco products? One word: flavors

“Flavored tobacco products” or “flavored tobacco” describes all tobacco products that have added flavoring. This includes cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, little cigars and cigarillos, large cigars, dissolvables, hookah and e-juice, which is used in vape devices. Many youth falsely believe that “just vaping flavors” is not harmful, when in fact, it is still a tobacco product and still contains nicotine; flavors lower teens’ perception of harm. 

Aside from having over 15,000 flavors available, guaranteeing to have a flavor everyone enjoys, Big Tobacco companies are specifically targeting youth in their marketing campaigns. Tobacco companies spend almost $618.2 million each year on marketing in California and $9.5 billion is spent annually nationwide on marketing. It is scientifically proven that advertising of tobacco products influences youth to start using tobacco, by making smoking and vaping seem appealing. In 2016, 29.7% of Placer County tobacco retailers had tobacco advertisements in kid-friendly locations, including near candy and toys.

This idea of targeted marketing is a major threat to our youth’s health. With flavors masking the harsh taste of tobacco, it makes it easier to start. Eighty percent of youth who have used tobacco products started with a flavored product and 85% of teens who currently vape use flavored products. It is important for youth to understand the health impact of vaping and that “just vaping flavors” is still harmful to their bodies.

Many jurisdictions are beginning to turn to the idea of a flavors ban, which prohibits sales of all flavored tobacco products that are not strictly “tobacco flavored.” Nationally, the Food and Drug Administration is taking a look at this, the State of California has it on the table, and closer to home, the City of Sacramento passed a flavors ban in April 2019. As of May 2019, 34 jurisdictions in California have a flavors ban. 

In Placer County, no jurisdictions currently have any sort of flavors ban, however, The City of Auburn is working to develop an ordinance to take to City Council in the future. By prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, we can do our part locally to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our youth.

Additional resources:

Be Well,
Dr. Rob, Robert Oldham, is Placer County’s public health officer and lives in Roseville. Contact his office at (530-889-7141.