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Bold and bright: How tobacco companies market flavored products to appeal to youth

Available in a variety of fruit, candy, dessert and cocktail flavors — such as sour apple, appletini, piña colada, cotton candy and cinnamon roll — it should come as no surprise that young people perceive flavored tobacco products as more appealing than non-flavored tobacco products.

Federal law bans flavors in cigarettes — except for menthol — but not in other tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, cigars, hookah and e-cigarettes. This gap in product regulation allows the tobacco industry to continue to use flavors to attract youth and young adults and market flavored products in several ways, including:

1. Introducing new and limited-edition flavors.

Tobacco products come in an array of youth-appealing flavors, such as “unicorn milk,” “rainbow custard,” “Saturday morning cereal” and “strawberry shortcake ice cream,” to name just a few. Tobacco companies have also increased their flavor offerings to attract new users and released new, seasonal or limited-edition flavors, such as “harvest blend,” “summer fusion,” “sticky sweets” and “spiced rum.”

2. Emphasizing flavors in advertisements and using colorful imagery on packaging.

The packaging and other marketing of flavored tobacco products often emphasize flavors with bright colors and descriptors such as “bold wintergreen,” “crisp apple” and “refreshing citrus.”

3. Paying to place them strategically in retail environments.

Flavored products are often found on countertops or next to candy displays, where they are visible and easily accessible to youth.

Restricting the marketing of flavors that appeal to youth and young adults would have significant public health benefits. That’s because flavors play a significant role in influencing tobacco use or experimentation among youth and young adults, who use flavored tobacco products more than any other age groups. Given their well-documented appeal to youth, Truth Initiative® has repeatedly called on the Food and Drug Administration to issue a rule banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

For more information on flavored tobacco products, read our fact sheet on flavored tobacco use among youth and young adults.

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