On Sept. 22nd, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a new tobacco law that made the sale but not possession of all “cigarettes with flavors characterizing fruit, candy, or clove” illegal (FDA News Release). The public rationale for this comprehensive ban is that “flavored cigarettes attract and allure kids into lifetime addiction” and that “marketing campaigns for products with sweet candy and fruit flavors can mislead young people into thinking that these products are less addictive and less harmful.” In short, once again the government is becoming more and more Simpsons-esque (Won’t somebody please think of the Children! hyperlink:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh2sWSVRrmo).
Unfortunately, the cartoonish elements of this most recent FDA episode are still continuing to unfold. First, the FDA is woefully unprepared and uneducated on the sheer amount of tobacco products that are actually banned under the new law (FDA officials have failed to provide a list detailing exactly which products are banned and have been repeatedly silent when met with consumer questions and comments.). Second, several other government agencies including the Center for Disease Control have indicated that 80% of underage smokers use the same non-flavored brands as their adult counterparts. This means that the ban will only potentially prevent 20% of targeted underage smokers from actually smoking. However, in reality, it seems clear that underage students who already possess a fake ID or the wherewithal to try to illegally purchase flavored cigarettes will simply redirect towards buying non-flavored brands. Moreover, the new laws do not currently target cigars or “little cigarettes” and therefore provide yet another avenue for underage smokers to smoke flavored tobacco. In essence, the laws simply shift teenagers from smoking one type of cigarette towards smoking a different but equally “dangerous” type.
Ultimately, the new laws are riddled with inefficiency and are only making it illegal for retailers to sell flavored, fruit or clove cigarettes to legal and well-informed buyers. A card system has already been in place to prevent underage teenagers from purchasing tobacco products. Perhaps the FDA should first focus on strengthening the fines for noncompliance before infringing upon the legal rights of those who do obey the age laws.
For more information on what is and is not covered/ what you can do:
Even if there is no way for citizens to overturn the law, you are still able to deter the FDA and the president from authorizing a more comprehensive ban in the future.