Flavored tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, blunt wraps, electronic cigarettes and shisha, the tobacco used in hookah. Because of their sweet flavors, low cost and attractive packaging, flavored tobacco products are especially appealing to youth, who are much more likely to use flavored tobacco products than adults. Young people perceive flavored tobacco products as tasting better and being safer than unflavored products, even though they are just as dangerous and addictive as cigarettes.
Why This Matters
Due to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Action 2009, cigarettes containing flavors other than menthol can no longer be sold in the United States. However, other tobacco products such as cigars, chewing tobacco, blunt wraps and shisha are still sold in candy flavors such as bubble gum, strawberry, grape and mango. These products help the tobacco industry get around the FDA’s 2009 ban of flavored cigarettes. See how easy it is for youth to hide these addictive and dangerous items.
In late 2019, the Trump Administration announced a nationwide ban on flavored tobacco products in non-refillable pods. These new rules, which went into effect Feb. 6, 2020, will have significant impact on manufacturers, which will trickle down to vendors. Unfortunately, these restrictions do not include menthol/mint pods, which are appealing to youth and have had a devastating impact on the African American and LGBTQ communities. JUUL Labs suspended the sale of all of its flavored products except mint/menthol while under extreme scrutiny from the FDA. However, knockoff brands filled the void and are readily available. Suorin and Smok, two popular “Pod Mods” that can be refilled with flavored e-juice, will still be legal.
Policy Momentum in Minnesota
In 2015 and 2016, Minneapolis and Saint Paul were the first cities in Minnesota to restrict fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products to adult-only stores and set a minimum price for cheap, flavored cigars. Minneapolis passed its ordinance on July 10, 2015, and Saint Paul passed its ordinance on January 6, 2016. A case study on Minneapolis’, Saint Paul’s and Duluth’s ordinances can be found here.
In 2017, with support from the Minnesota Menthol Coalition, Minneapolis and Saint Paul added menthol to their flavored tobacco restriction. In Minneapolis and Saint Paul, fruit-, candy- and menthol-flavored tobacco products can only be sold in adult-only tobacco stores and liquor stores.
Since then, other Minnesota cities have restricted or fully banned the sale of flavored tobacco products. As of January 2020, Shoreview, St. Louis Park, Robbinsdale and Rushford restrict the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products. Duluth, Falcon Heights, Mendota Heights, Lauderdale, Lilydale, Hennepin County, Golden Valley and Edina have restricted or banned the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol.
The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners also issued a resolution supporting restricting flavored tobacco sales in Ramsey County. Read it here.
State and local governments can adopt laws that prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products within their jurisdiction. Limiting the sale of products, setting minimum price or creating a minimum pack size are some of the ways communities can protect their youth by making flavored tobacco products less accessible and less appealing.
St. Paul Action
The Saint Paul City Council voted on Jan. 6, 2016, on an ordinance to move flavored tobacco products to adult-only stores and set a minimum price for cheap, flavored cigars that matches neighboring cities.DOWNLOAD FACT SHEET
The Minneapolis City Council voted on July 10, 2015, in favor of an ordinance to set a minimum price for cheap, flavored cigars and to move flavored tobacco products to adult-only stores.
What You Should Know
Targeting youth with flavored products is a critical step in the tobacco industry’s strategy to encourage addiction.
- Almost 90 percent of addicted adult smokers started smoking as teenagers.
- Candy and fruit flavored tobacco products mask the harsh taste of tobacco, and are shown to be attractive to youth.
- Many of these products are hard to distinguish from candy, gum and breath mints.
- As one industry official said in internal industry documents, “Flavored products would have appeal in the under-35 age group, especially in the 12-24 group.”
Flavored products may not taste like tobacco, but they are just as addictive and dangerous as other tobacco products.
- Research shows that youth believe flavored tobacco products are less dangerous and less addictive than non-flavored tobacco.
- Tobacco products contain nicotine, a highly-addictive substance shown to be detrimental to adolescent brain development.
- Cigar smoke contains the same toxins as cigarette smoke.
- Smokeless tobacco causes oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancers.
An increasing number of young people are using flavored tobacco products, including menthol.
- From 2000 to 2014, menthol cigarette use by Minnesota high school students increased from 20 to 44 percent. By comparison, only 25 percent of Minnesota adult smokers use menthol.
- A recent Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) survey found that nearly 13 percent of Minnesota kids are using e-cigarettes, which come in kid-friendly flavors like gummy bear and cotton candy.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42 percent of students who smoke use flavored products.
- Once kids start using one tobacco product, they are more likely to experiment with others.