Fruit-Flavored Tobacco Addiction

Littered on almost any sidewalk, one can find bright, shiny foil wrappers. I see them scattered around campus almost every day. These wrappers are not from gum or candy but rather from cheap, flavored tobacco products. Cherry Swisher Sweets, Grape White Owls — imagine any candy or fruit flavor and you can probably find a tobacco product that comes in it.
 
As someone who has never smoked a day in her life, I knew little about these products. The more I researched, the more alarmed I became. 
In 2009, federal law prohibited tobacco companies from selling flavored cigarettes, with the exception of menthols. However, the tobacco industry found a loophole in this restriction and immediately exploited it. The tobacco industry began heavily marketing flavored “little cigars.” Little cigars are essentially smaller cigarettes, only differing in name and packaging. Other tobacco products, like cigarillos, e-cigarettes, hookah and smokeless tobacco also come in a wide array of flavors and are heavily marketed by the industry. 
 
Tobacco companies know they need new customers in order to make money. About 1,300 of their loyal customers die every day in the United States from tobacco-related illnesses. And they don’t want just anyone to get hooked on their deadly products; they want people in their teens and early 20s. Tobacco companies are targeting young adults with these products and attracting kids with their cheap prices, colorful packaging and multitude of candy flavors. 
 
A part of the tobacco industry’s ploy is to hook new customers. They chemically engineer their products to taste just like candy. These flavors mask out the natural harshness and taste of tobacco smoke, making young adults perceive these products to be less harmful. In fact, many of these products contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and are just as dangerous, with the same health risks of cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 
 
I feel strongly that we can and should do something to push back against the tobacco industry on this matter. Restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products and increasing their price will prevent young people from becoming hooked, thus saving them from a lifetime of addiction and disease. 
 
Today, tobacco is still a leading cause of preventable disease and death in our state. More people die from tobacco use than from alcohol use, illegal drug use, AIDS, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. Minneapolis is a smart, progressive and healthy city. We have consistently been a leader in prominent health policies, but we can always do better. Restricting the sale of these products and increasing the price will improve our health, quality of life and prevent young people from becoming addicted.