Cigarette companies claim they are not targeting young smokers and they even run ads declaring “there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.” A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health, however, indicates that tobacco companies are enticing children and teenagers by developing flavored cigarettes.
Although the companies claim they are no longer marketing to children, the research, published in the November/December issue of Health Affairs, reveals that attractive packaging and candy flavors are being employed to market to specific racial and ethnic groups.
Harvard researchers compiled the information by consulting a database of more than 7 million internal tobacco industry documents created over the course of more than 30 years. They paid specific attention to the discussion of alternative flavors and flavor technology as a method to attract young smokers.
One internal document from 1993 stated, "Growing interest in new flavor sensations (i.e. soft drinks, snack foods) among younger adult consumers may indicate new opportunities for enhanced-flavor tobacco products that could leverage [a brand’s] current strength among younger adult smokers."
The researchers suggest that the companies used new product technology, for example a flavor pellet imbedded in a cigarette filter, to create fruit and liqueur flavors such as Mandarin Mint, Mocha Taboo, Mintrigue, Kauai Kolada, and Margarita Mixer.
Gregory Connolly, senior author of the study and a professor of the practice of public health at HSPH, emphasized that these practices deceptively concealed the harmful effect of cigarettes.
"Tobacco companies are using candy-like flavors and high tech delivery devices to turn a blowtorch into a flavored popsicle, misleading millions of youngsters to try a deadly product. Adding candy flavors to a toxic product (cigarettes) isn’t any different than adding sugar to contaminated meat a century ago. The only difference is that today one is regulated by the FDA and the other is not."