New York State Media Campaign Raises Awareness of the Impact of Flavors on Youth Tobacco Use Rate
The tobacco and vape industries have lots of strategies to ensure a steady stream of youth customers. The It’s Not Just media campaign calls attention to a particularly effective way the industry attracts new youth tobacco users―the marketing of menthol tobacco products.
Menthol, along with other sweet, fruity and candy flavors in tobacco products, serve as a starter kit for kids. Flavors make tobacco products taste better and feel less harsh on the throat, making them more appealing and easier for young people to use. Flavors also create the impression that these products are less harmful than they really are. More than 80% of youth who use tobacco products started with a flavored product and continue to use flavored products.
NYS Youth Tobacco Use Trends Follow the Flavors
The rates of NYS high school student use of various tobacco products over time illustrates the power of flavors in attracting youth.
- Youth cigarette use decreased dramatically after 2009 when flavored cigarettes, excepting menthol, were no longer allowed for sale. During the same period and for the first time, youth use of “other tobacco products” which include cigars, cigarillos and smokeless tobacco (chew, snuff, snus) in flavors like chocolate, wild berry, watermelon, lemonade and cherry dynamite, exceeded the rate of youth cigarette use and is currently more than twice the rate.
- After thousands of differently flavored e-cigarettes entered the market in 2013, youth use of e-cigs increased by 160% in NYS between 2014-2018, skyrocketing to an alarming 30.5% of high school students using e-cigs in 2018.
Flavored tobacco still cheap, sweet and easy to get
In May 2020, New York State prohibited the sale of flavored e-cigs, including menthol, a bold response to the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. But the continued legal sale of other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, little cigars, and smokeless tobacco may influence youth to simply replace flavored e-cigarettes with other flavored tobacco products as their products of choice.
The photos to the right taken at a local tobacco retailer show commonly sold flavored little cigars which come in small package sizes, are available in fruit and candy flavors including peach mango, black cherry, and a flavor simply labeled “sweet,” and can be priced as low as $1, all of which makes them particularly appealing to youth.
Tobacco industry marketing of these products is evident across the region. Based on Capital District tobacco retail store observations conducted in spring of 2022, more stores had outside advertising for flavored cigars than any other tobacco product and 100% of tobacco retailers sold flavored cigars.
Menthol in cigarettes continues to entice youth to experiment with cigarette smoking.
The video highlights the deliberate marketing of menthol by the tobacco industry to attract and addict youth.