Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: Durbin-Murkowski Bill Protects Kids from Flavored Tobacco

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

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for introducing the Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids Act (SAFE Kids Act), legislation that curbs the use of flavors in tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and cigars. The bill (S.3319) was introduced in the Senate today.

Sens. Durbin and Murkowski recognize that flavors play a key role in youth initiation and continued use of e-cigarettes and cigars. A government study published in JAMA found that that 81 percent of kids who have ever tried tobacco started with a flavored product, including 81 percent who have ever tried e-cigarettes and 65 percent who have ever tried cigars. Youth also cite flavors as a major reason for their current use of tobacco products.

Tobacco companies have a long history of developing and marketing flavored tobacco products as “starter” products that attract kids. Flavors improve the taste and mask the harshness of tobacco products, making them more appealing and easier for kids to try the product and ultimately become addicted.

E-cigarette and cigar manufacturers have sought to entice kids with a new generation of candy-flavored tobacco products. Electronic 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 and banana smash that clearly appeal to kids, and they’re often colorfully packaged to look just like candy and other kid-friendly products. Even as youth cigarette smoking rates continue to fall, recent findings show that nearly 1 in 5 high school students still use some form of tobacco. E-cigarettes continue to be the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students, while more high school boys now smoke cigars than cigarettes.

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.

By:  Matthew L. Myers
Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids