Florida communities try to get rid of flavored tobacco

Local officials are upset with tobacco companies for aiming their products toward children and teens. With candylike flavors and shiny colorful wrappers, officials argue that these products are meant to attract a young audience and get them hooked on tobacco products.

Hundreds of resolutions across the state are being looked at and urging local businesses to stop promoting these products. Several cities throughout Central Florida have joined the movement and are aiming to get these products banned.

Several Volusia cities, including Port Orange, as well as Kissimmee, St. Cloud and Lake Mary have also passed resolutions to stop the selling of these flavored products.

Dr. Bonnie Sorensen, director of the Volusia County Health Department says, “Youth perceive these products as safe because of the candy flavor.” Although these products taste good and seem harmless, they are just as addictive and dangerous as regular cigarettes.

Health Department officials cited a 2010 survey that shows nearly one in five middle and high school students are using flavored tobacco. Many stores have been surveyed and all of them sell these flavored tobacco products. One in six kids between the ages of 11 and 17 also reported using these products, which they have older people get for them.

Mary Petiprin, Tobacco-Prevention specialist with the county’s Health Department, says she plans on approaching city and county officials about adopting the resolution to stop these products from being sold. Osceola County is also working to make this resolution reality.

With tons of new tobacco flavors being introduced, flavored tobacco has become popular with a younger audience.  In the past two to three years, many of these products have made their way to local convenience stores.

John Singleton, communication director for R.J Reynolds Tobacco Co., says they are working with middle schools nationwide to prevent kids from smoking. He also says that state and local officials should be more focused on enforcing laws that prohibit minors from smoking in general, rather than banning only flavored tobacco.

Some worry these resolutions may be a waste of time considering that local officials can’t outlaw these tobacco products. All they can do right now is talk to business and try to get them to understand their point.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned most flavored cigarettes in 2009, but still many feel they need to take other flavored-tobacco products just as serious. However, parents need to step up and talk with their children, considering most don’t realize their kids are using these products.

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