Sarah Ford | May 12, 2014

What do Kool-Aid and Cigars Have in Common?

FDA Must Act to Prevent Tobacco Companies from Using Flavors to Lure Kids

WASHINGTON, DC – Tobacco companies are using the same flavor chemicals in their sweet-flavored tobacco products, including cigars of various sizes and smokeless tobacco, that are used in popular candy and drink products such as LifeSavers, Jolly Ranchers and Kool-Aid, according to research published today in The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers found that several of the tobacco products contained flavor chemicals at much higher concentrations than in the non-tobacco products.

“The same, familiar, chemical-specific flavor sensory cues that are associated with fruit flavors in popular candy and drink products are being exploited in the engineered designs of flavored tobacco products. What we are seeing is truly candy-flavored tobacco,” the researchers wrote in a research letter published by the journal.

It is deeply disturbing that the tobacco industry is using the same flavors found in popular candy and drink products to lure kids to use candy-flavored tobacco products. The 2009 federal law giving the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products banned candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes. But other tobacco products, including cigars, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes, continue to be available in a wide range of sweet flavors. This research is more evidence that the FDA should prohibit tobacco companies from using flavors that appeal to kids.

The FDA must quickly and within one year finalize its new proposed rule to begin regulating cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products not currently under its jurisdiction. The FDA must also begin immediately to develop regulations that close gaps in the proposed rule by restricting flavors and marketing that appeal to kids.

The new study was conducted by a team of researchers at Portland State University led by Professor James F. Pankow. The researchers analyzed 12 artificially flavored candy and fruit drink products, including different versions of LifeSavers, Jolly Ranchers and Kool-Aid, and compared them to 15 widely-available flavored cigar and smokeless tobacco products. They found significant overlap in the flavor chemicals used. One example – the flavor chemicals used in cherry Kool-Aid and “Wild Cherry” Cheyenne cigars are extremely similar.

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