Youth smokers in New York choose same brands of cigarettes as adults, menthol their top choice
Saturday, March 12, 2011 - 5:52 am

New York’s youth smokers are smoking the same heavily marketed brands as New York’s adults, according to a report issued by the state Health Department.

“When it comes to smoking, youth and adults are choosing – from among the many, many options – the same three brands,” said Melanie Flack, Reality Check coordinator in St. Lawrence County. “Clearly, tobacco industry marketing works, and we need to continue our efforts to protect children by, among other things, limiting the in-store marketing they’re exposed to.”

The report says about 75 percent of established high school smokers in New York preferred Newport, Marlboro or Camel cigarettes in 2010.

“The fact that youth and adult smokers are choosing the same top three brands shows that that tobacco marketing effectively targets youth and adults,” said Allison Montroy, Heuvelton Reality Check youth.

The top three cigarette brand preferences of New York’s established youth smokers (high schoolers who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and who have smoked on at least 20 of the past 30 days), as reported by the state Youth Tobacco Survey, are similar to adult smokers’ brand preferences, as reported in the 2009 New York Adult Tobacco Survey:

• 37 percent of established youth smokers and 29 percent of established adult smokers prefer Newport cigarettes

• 23 percent of youth and 29 percent of adults prefer Marlboro cigarettes

• 16 percent of youth and five percent of adults prefer Camel cigarettes

The No. 1 choice of youth smokers – Newport cigarettes – is primarily a brand of menthol cigarettes sold by Lorillard Tobacco Company. Newport was exclusively a menthol brand until November 2010, when Lorillard introduced a non-menthol Newport cigarette. This comes at the same time as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is scrutinizing how mint-flavored cigarettes affect smoking habits.

In addition to introducing a non-menthol Newport cigarette, Lorillard (along with R.J. Reynolds) has sued the U.S. government to block a scientific advisory committee from reviewing the evidence and making a non-binding report to the FDA about menthol cigarettes.

According to Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds fear that the committee, having examined the evidence, will recommend effective actions that reduce or eliminate the lucrative market for menthol cigarettes.

“Once again, (tobacco companies) are putting profits ahead of lives and health,” Myers said.

“This is no surprise,” said Shauna Rickett, Ogdensburg Reality Check youth. “Menthol cigarettes clearly appeal to children, and tobacco companies are not inclined to let go of their customers, regardless of their age. The bottom line is that dollars are more important than public health.”

St. Lawrence County Reality youth continue to educate community groups and members of the issue of tobacco advertising and promotion in the retail environment. Through community events and activities, they are able to get their information out and recruit support for requiring tobacco products be kept out of consumer view inside all non-adult-only retail establishments.

Reality Check is a youth led action movement with the main goal of exposing the advertising and marketing practices of the tobacco industry.