Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan — helping big tobacco hook young smokers
Sen. Burr and Sen. Hagan may not agree on much, but both fought the regulation of tobacco by the Food and Drug Administration. The bill outlawed the use of various flavorings in cigarettes that tend to attract young smokers.
There was a giant exemption in the bill for menthol, a popular flavoring. But our senators saw that if the FDA was given the authority to regulate tobacco, menthol’s days were limited. The two big producers of menthol cigs, Lorillard and Reynolds American, are based in Greensboro and Winston-Salem respectively.
Now comes news that the rate of young smokers using menthol cigarettes increased from 2004 to 2008. In 2004 about 44 percent of smokers 12 to 17 years of age used menthol cigarettes. In 2008 that rate increased to 48 percent. For 18 to 25 year olds, the rate of smokers using menthol cigarettes jumped from 34 percent in 2004 to 41 percent in 2008.
This report is more evidence that young smokers are attracted to menthol. As other flavorings are banned from distribution menthol will likely be even more attractive.
Our senators understandably want to protect North Carolina business. But standing by while more children fall victim to Big Tobacco’s slick ads and sweet additives is unacceptable.