The New York City Council almost unanimously approved an amendment to federal ban on flavored cigarettes in order to expand it prohibiting all tobacco products with flavorings.
In conformity with the ordinance, such flavored items as cigarillos, cigars or chewing tobacco are now prohibited. The NYC public health department’s spokesman said that the legislation would prevent tobacco companies from making use of the loopholes in the federal ban that still allows flavorings in all tobacco products, other than cigarettes. Neither the federal ban, nor that of NYC includes menthol, wintergreen or mint flavors.
The neighboring state of New Jersey also prohibited exotic flavors in cigars.
Michael R Bloomberg, the NYC Mayor already expressed his support to the ordinance that would be passed to his office this week. After the legal approval, any tobacco store across the City caught on selling banned products would have to pay a $2,000 fine for the first violation whereas further violations could even lead to the cancellation of the retailer license. If adopted, the ordinance could become valid in four months.
The New York City Council member, Christine Quinn said that the tobacco industry used the flavorings to hide the hazardous effects of tobacco consumption and encourage minors to start smoking; however, the ordinance adopted by the council would put an end to that shameless practice and prevent the adolescents from becoming attracted by the colorful packs and tasty flavors and then getting addicted to tobacco use.
According to a survey carried out among students of local high schools, the rate of cigarillos and cigar-lovers grew threefold in comparison with 2001 percentage. A typical cigar contains three-five times more tobacco than an average cigarette. However, there are also small cigars, nearly of the same strength as cigarettes, but dramatically cheaper. Public health groups state that the introduction of flavorings was intended at minors, attracting them colorful images and teenage-oriented slogans.
Joel Rivera, the author of the ordinance stated that the flavorings are the latest interpretation of Joe Camel, a controversial symbol of Camel cigarettes that was prohibited in the 90’s.
Lewis Fidler, the lone opponent of the bill in the council confessed that he had switched to his favorite cherry cigars from good-old Marlboros. He added that there has been not enough reliable scientific evidence proving that adults and particularly, adolescents start smoking because of flavors.
He also said that though the sales of all kinds of tobacco products had been prohibited, the most efficient strategy in reducing teenage smoking rates is to increase prices, making tobacco products completely unaffordable to younger New Yorkers.
The National Association of Tobacco Outlets sent several letters to the Mayor asking him to veto the bill, since it would hurt sales dramatically, but the Mayor wasn’t available to respond.
Another smokers’ rights organization – Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment – declared that adult smokers are hurt by ridiculous restrictions on tobacco products in the sake of minors.