By Evelyn Ticona
A new ban passed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bars the sale of clove cigarettes and fruit and candy-flavored tobacco.
The ban, authorized by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, states, “A cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol).”
The government is also considering bans on menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco.
Following the approval of a new law signed by President Barack Obama in June, the FDA may more strictly regulate these products, which have been accused of targeting children because of the attractiveness of the package and the appealing flavors.
Clove cigarettes, a kind of Indian-made bidi cigarette, come in a variety of flavors and presentations. In fact, it is the colorful and attractive packaging that has made cloves so successful with younger generations.
The global consumption of tobacco has increased greatly in the 21st century, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). America is the world’s second largest consumer of cigarettes after China.
According to WHO, people who smoke bidi cigarettes are for the most part younger than 30, and argue that clove cigarettes seem more “natural” and therefore less damaging to their health.
“I’ve heard cloves aren’t as addictive as regular cigarettes are,” said Jim Loftis, a senior at Palm Beach Atlantic University who smokes. “But they’re still bad for you.”
Dr. John Grawe, associate professor of chemistry at PBA, said the banned substances may be even worse than those that are “approved.”
“After reviewing the reports on the health hazards of clove and herbal cigarettes versus tobacco cigarettes, the results suggest herbals may have even greater tars and nicotine along with other compounds … that are suspect agents for serious lung disease,” Grawe said.
Studies have demonstrated that overall cancer risks are higher for clove smokers than for habitual cigarette smokers, reports www.sciencedirect.com.
“To my knowledge, clove cigarettes generally do not contain the same levels of carcinogens as most branded cigarettes,” said Vince Diller, director of PBA’s Department of Health and Wellness. “However, their production has even less controls than most cigarette companies making their content less known or controlled.”
The FDA reported that 90 percent of adult smokers start in their teens, and flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many adolescent smokers to become regular smokers.
“It’s important to note that this act is not removing tobacco sales, the primary culprit, but it makes less accessible and desirable to youth the flavored tobaccos that are dominantly purchased by youth populations,” Diller said.
However, manufacturers and retailers have found a loophole in the law to allow them to keep these products on the market: selling them as cigars.
Some shop owners are trying to circumvent the ban by marketing clove cigarettes as “small cigars” so they can keep selling flavored cigarettes.
Many fear that the act will have adverse effects.
“Unfortunately as with other areas of ‘limitation,’ the general public will typically attempt to celebrate the use of these products in opposition to these controls,” Diller said. “This act is one way to effect a needed change but ultimately it doesn’t replace or trump the value of personal responsibility and ownership of one’s choices on themselves and their environment.”
Diller said that he has noticed “a record number of students” requesting help to quit smoking this year, which may be linked to the new law.
“I have found that by the time someone recognizes the negative factors, they have a sustainable habit that is really difficult to break,” Diller said. “For college students the new act probably is a motivator for some to quit while the quitting is good.”
Diller recommended the site www.floridaquitline.org for help quitting the habit.