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NAQC Newsroom: Tobacco Control

San Francisco Board Votes to End Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products, Including Menthol Cigarettes

Wednesday, July 12, 2017  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov


CONTACT:  John Schachter, 202-296-5469


San Francisco Board Votes to End Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products, Including Menthol Cigarettes


Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today acted to stop tobacco companies from targeting kids and other vulnerable populations by voting to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. This bold action will crack down on a key tactic tobacco companies use to entice kids into a lifetime of tobacco addiction.


The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the legislation. A final board vote is scheduled for next week, and Mayor Ed Lee has said he will sign the measure into law. It is slated to take effect April 1, 2018. By voting to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, San Francisco has set a powerful example for other Bay Area governments considering similar measures, including Oakland and Contra Costa County, and for the entire nation. We thank the Board of Supervisors for its strong leadership in fighting tobacco use, the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death.


Tobacco companies have a long history of developing and marketing flavored tobacco products as “starter” products that attract kids. Flavors improve the taste and mask the harshness of tobacco products, making them more appealing and easier for beginners – primarily kids – to try the product and ultimately become addicted.


As youth smoking rates have fallen, manufacturers have sought to entice kids with a new generation of flavored tobacco products. Electronic cigarettes are sold in over 7,700 flavors, and flavored cigars make up more than half of the U.S. cigar market. These products come in flavors like gummy bear, cherry crush and banana smash that clearly appeal to kids. Tobacco companies also continue to aggressively market menthol cigarettes, especially to African-Americans, the LGBT community, youth and other demographic groups. (For more information, see our report, The Flavor Trap.)


Flavors play an important role in youth initiation and continued use of tobacco products. A government study published in JAMA found that that 81 percent of kids who have ever tried tobacco started with a flavored product and 80 percent of current youth tobacco users had used a flavored tobacco product in the past month.


Youth smokers are also more likely to use menthol cigarettes than any other age group. Over half (54 percent) of youth smokers ages 12-17 use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than one-third of smokers ages 35 and older. Menthol use is even higher among African-American youth: seven out of 10 African-American youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes.


The popularity of menthol cigarettes among African Americans and youth is a direct result of a decades-long marketing campaign by the tobacco industry. Dating back to the 1950s, the industry has targeted these communities with marketing for menthol cigarettes through sponsorship of community and music events, targeted magazine advertising, youthful imagery and retail marketing. The industry’s targeting has had a destructive impact as African Americans smoke menthol cigarettes at high rates, quit smoking at lower rates, and African-American men have high death rates from lung cancer. A comprehensive report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, issued in 2013, found that menthol cigarettes led to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking.


The evidence is clear that flavored tobacco products entice kids into tobacco addiction and harm the health of vulnerable communities. By ending the sale of these products, San Francisco is taking another critical step to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free.


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