Florida vs. Flavored Tobacco

Sunshine State communities passing resolutions against products they say target kids

ORLANDO, Fla. -- About 100 resolutions have been adopted across the state of Florida urging businesses to stop selling fruit- and liqueur-flavored tobacco, including blunts, cigars, cigarillos, chew and snuff, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

A movement is gaining steam across the state against flavored tobacco. Local officials argue the candylike taste and shiny, colorful wrappers are meant to attract children and get them hooked on tobacco products.

"Youth perceive these products as safe because of the candy flavor," Dr. Bonnie Sorensen, director of the Volusia County Health Department, told the newspaper.

Although flavored products look "benign," Sorensen warned that they are as addictive as regular cigarettes. As part of the movement against flavored tobacco, she has talked to public officials in several Volusia cities, including Port Orange, which has passed a resolution asking businesses to quit selling it. Kissimmee, St. Cloud and Lake Mary have also passed resolutions, the report said.

Lake County this month became the latest Central Florida government to join the effort after Health Department officials cited a 2010 survey that found one in five middle- and high-school students reported using flavored tobacco.

Of more than 40 convenience stores examined, health officials said all were carrying flavored tobacco products, according to the report.

In Orange, more than 150 stores were surveyed, and all carried a variety of flavored tobacco, said Mary Petiprin, tobacco-prevention specialist with the county's Health Department. One in six kids from 11 to 17 reported using flavored tobacco, which they get from older teens, Petiprin said. She plans to approach city and county officials about adopting the resolution in a month or two. Osceola Health Department officials are working with county officials on a similar resolution.

"We're aligned with the purpose of this effort," John Singleton, communications director of the Reynolds American Inc., told the paper. "We have a different way of going about it, though."

State and local officials should be working on enforcing laws that prohibit minors from smoking and imposing stricter punishment for people who sell or provide kids with tobacco rather than ban flavored tobacco, Singleton said.

Lake County commissioner Jennifer Hill, who voted against the resolution earlier this month, called it a "slippery slope" for local governments to request retailers not to sell flavored tobacco. She asked whether chocolate wine and cotton-candy vodka would be next on the hit list.

Jeff Baker, owner of Eustis Mobil, said it will be tough to persuade businesses that already are prohibited from selling tobacco to minors to voluntarily throw out fruity items, which also legally can only be sold to adults.

"It doesn't make sense," he told the paper, adding that such responsibility lies with the parents.