Friday, January 15, 2010

Clove Cigarettes Have Gone Up In Smoke

In researching the persecution of e-cigarette manufacturers, I discovered something else that I can direct my impotent outrage toward.

In late September 2009, clove cigarettes were banned in this country. Apparently, our all-wise government has determined that flavored cigarettes, including cloves, are more appealing to children and they have been deemed more dangerous than another other cigarette for that very reason. I found it odd that flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products are not included in the ban. And I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized that menthol-flavored cigarettes are not included in the flavored cigarette ban and Philip Morris USA (part of Big Tobacco for those of you not in the know) supported the ban. Lolwut?

So what gives? Feeling quite a bit like Philip Marlowe (a fictional private detective who, appropriately enough, smoked), I had a feeling that things weren't as they seemed and I did a little more digging.

In addition to plain old tobacco cigarettes, they also came flavored as cloves, menthol, candy, and fruit. I discovered that the FDA (them again!) determined that cigarette manufacturers intend to attract teens to the dark side by making flavored cigarettes. That's very interesting. Considering the flak that cigarette companies get for any implied advertising directed toward minors, I'd sure like to see the evidence of a marketing plan that specifies an implicit desire to attract teens. And, considering that flavored cigarettes have been around for decades, why is it suddenly a problem that needs to be addressed?

How the FDA made such a determination is anyone's guess, but I suppose their newly developed Center for Tobacco Products had to have something to pursue in order to justify their department and their salaries. The SCOTUS ruled in 2000 that the FDA does not have the power to regulate cigarettes, but President Obama and Congress granted them that authority in June 2009. I'm a little confused because it seems that the "T" in the BATF would cover all tobacco products, but I'm not one of our all-wise government leaders so what do I know? I was particularly galled to find that the FDA also developed a tip-line to be used if anyone sees a retailer selling flavored cigarettes. Call me crazy, but I'm generally not a fan of citizens reporting on other citizens to the government. But it's okay if it's for the children, eh comrade? There's no way this is about expanding government, duplicating government effort, or taking another baby step toward making all tobacco products illegal. No, there's no way that this is really what it's about.

In my quick research, I also discovered that Philip Morris USA only sells traditional and menthol cigarettes. Ah, it's all starting to make sense now. Why would Philip Morris want to have any competition? See, they aren't the bad guys, it's those damned flavored cigarette makers who are the real problem. And, after having been on the market for decades, teens are only now realizing that clove cigarettes are awesome. Uh-huh.

I find a recent study to be rather puzzling. It found that menthol cigarettes are far harder to quit than traditional cigarettes among African-American and Latino users. Though menthol cigarettes are preferred by only around 25% of Caucasian smokers, nearly 80% of African-American smokers prefer menthols. It also found that menthols are increasing in popularity among teen smokers. So can someone explain why menthol-flavored cigarettes aren't included in the flavored cigarette ban?

Let me see if I have this straight. Cigarettes are bad. We should quit smoking. Menthol cigarettes are harder to quit than traditional unflavored cigarettes. But only other flavored cigarettes are banned? Menthols, flavored cigars, and flavored smokeless tobacco are okay? I'm not trying to be obtuse, but what am I missing here?

I'm not Fox Mulder and I don't see conspiracies everywhere I look, but something sure stinks here and it sure as heck isn't the smoke from flavored cigarettes.

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