Big tobacco targets youth with new products
The big tobacco companies are introducing new products to entice young people to begin using tobacco. Andrea Deming is a Phoenix Alliance coordinator and she came to Emery County to speak to the Governing Youth Council group comprised of students from Emery High, San Rafael Junior High and Canyon View Junior High. The students gave up a Saturday morning to become acquainted with the new tobacco products and to make a plan to halt their use among the teens in Emery County.
The Phoenix Alliance is a tobacco prevention and control program sponsored by the Utah Department of Health. Their goal is to decrease tobacco use in youth 12-18
Deming asked the students what being part of the GYC means. The students responded the GYC does work in prevention for tobacco, alcohol and drug use and anti-bullying education.
"If you want to help and you care about what you're doing and are excited about it, then you will be committed to doing something about the tobacco problem," said Deming.
She said the tobacco industry is like a best friend who betrays us. They hide their products behind slogans and sayings, they hide the dangers and the facts about tobacco. Groups like the Phoenix Alliance help counteract the noni-nformation that comes from the tobacco companies.
Deming said the tobacco companies have had to become more creative. Smoking used to be rampant because it was allowed everywhere, in stores, restaurants, airplanes, parks, etc. Now smoking in public places is becoming more rare.
Utah has the lowest rate of smoking. Raising taxes on cigarettes acts as a deterrent to get people to quit or not start in the first place. People who smoke get sick more and the state pays for those who can't pay their hospital bills, so smoking costs everyone money.
To counteract this loss of revenue from cigarettes, then the tobacco companies are introducing new products. Deming said the new products include flavored cigars, snus and snuff, dissolvables and E-cigarettes. The little cigars are tobacco rolled in a tobacco plant leaf. They contain chemicals and cancer causing substances the same as cigarettes. The cigars are cheaper and they come in flavors, raspberry, cherry, mint, caramel apple and whiskey to name a few. The use of cigars has jumped 115 percent.
Phillip Morris is a big tobacco company that markets Marlboro, Skoal and Copenhagen. This company has become tricky in avoiding the regulating industry and just flying under the radar with their new products. The use of small cigars and has increased 240 percent from 1997-2007. This increase in consumption is being attributed to the higher taxes on cigarettes, so people are switching to the little cigars. There is also citrus Skoal and sour apple flavors. The tobacco companies say their products are for adults, but the packaging and marketing appears aimed at the younger people. The flavored products are aimed at youth.
Deming said they are also taking regular cigarettes and putting a menthol burst button on them which the smoker can control and have a minty burst of flavor. The Captain Black cigars offer vanilla, peach and rum flavors. Deming said tobacco companies are always offering promotions including sweepstakes and coupons for their products. The manufacturers believe that if you give someone a coupon for four boxes of a product then they will be hooked and this creates customer/buyer loyalty. The tobacco companies also promote DVDs and concerts. They offer bonus bucks and even have facebook accounts and fan clubs. Adidas has even produced a shoe that looks like a tobacco leaf.
Deming said retailers are taught and coached on how to promote the tobacco products. They instruct retailers to have the products front and center at the checkout counters. "Eye level is buy level," said Deming. Many of the tobacco products are placed right by the candy in the stores. The tobacco companies supply the retailers with huge signs for their windows, promoting tobacco. Snus and snuff come in small packages or pouches. These tobacco items contain more tobacco than cigarettes.
Deming said, "Smokers and spitters don't really like each other, they think the other tobacco use is disgusting. But, the tobacco companies are trying to get these user groups to try new products. Nicotine poisoning can be lethal. Some of the snus and snuff products remove the water and create free nicotine which is a higher concentration of nicotine and very dangerous. Some of the enticements on the snus can include the words, pop, tingle and enjoy. But, the can also carries a warning which reads that use of this product may cause gum disease and tooth loss. They are marketing the snus in cans which are similar to the size of a cell phone. The tobacco companies package their products just like candy. They even have an energy snuff that contains caffeine. It contains 150 mg. of caffeine, a Red Bull contains 80 mg. and a Mt. Dew contains 55. This chew is equivalent to a highly caffeniated energy drink. Snuff is a finely ground tobacco that is snorted into the nose. One of these products is called Rockit and it has a very snazzy website, geared to the young, with subtitles like Get Some, Wazz-up, hook-up and other jargon that targets youth.
"Another dangerous product is the dissolvable tobacco products. This is smokeless tobacco and dissolves in the mouth, so there is no spitting involved. These products are confusing and teachers don't know their out there. Everyone needs to be educated. Retailers need to be educated, too, on the dangers of these products," said Deming.
Deming said these and all tobacco products are dangerous. RJ Reynolds, big tobacco company owner, died of pancreatic cancer related to tobacco use. "There is no safe tobacco use, quitting or never starting is the best option," said Deming.
Orbs are a cigarette product that is a hot seller right now. Camel is also promoting new packaging for cigarettes. They are in a pink and black box. Some products are being packaged in longer, thinner boxes. The shapes of the packages look like make-up or lip gloss. "That's what we're up against," said Deming.
Another new product Deming talked about is the E cigarettes. They were patented in China and give a real nicotine buzz. They are a battery powered cigarette that's all plastic. They are sold in malls and kiosks. They are refillable. There is a high dose of nicotine in E cigarettes. This is a smokeless product and the user inhales and exhales vapor.
Deming challenged the youth group to get out and educate the general public, other teens, parents, teachers and legislators about these new products targeted at youth. She asked them to attend city council meetings and make adults aware. She said the big tobacco companies need to be exposed for marketing to youth. "It's all about the packaging, we need to expose big tobacco and their deadly tricks and market manipulation," said Deming.
Deming said the Phoenix Alliance has been conducting a consumer feedback survey concerning these latest tobacco products. They plan on taking survey results to the legislature to educate them on these hazardous tobacco products. They plan on presenting on Nov. 18 at the Health and Human Services meeting to get this information out. The Phoenix Alliance will also hand deliver letters to the legislators and candy bowls. In these bowls will be the new tobacco products and their similarities to candy and gum packaging will be pointed out and another candy bowl will display actual candy and gum products.
Deming encouraged the youth to educate themselves so they can answer questions from the legislators when they visit them at the Capitol. She said the youth can be advocates against tobacco use and she warned them about the powerful tobacco lobbyists with their big money. These lobbyists job is to get legislators, not to enact anti-tobacco legislation.
Lorie Huntington is the leader of the GYC. The youth council is active in many things. They participate in character education in the schools. They ride in the parades with their anti-tobacco and prevention messages. They help with local community events including the annual Graduation party, carnivals, cancer walk and they attended the youth summit at the UofU. They have booths at the fair and Melon Days. They helped get a Grad night party started for Green River. Huntington said there is a high rate of tobacco use for Emery County youth. She encourages any youth who would like to get involved to contact her at 381-2432.