A few weeks ago, the Gainesville City Commission passed a resolution discouraging businesses from selling candy-flavored tobacco products in the area.
Of course, like most government actions, it’s just “for the children.”
After the city commission researched the issue, it found that the products were allegedly being marketed to young people through the allure of different flavors.
Andrew Romero, a tobacco prevention specialist, said one in six young people between 11 and 17 have tried flavored tobacco in Alachua County.
Of course, Romero does not provide any statistics into which type of tobacco they tried first, nor did he compare these statistics to other cities.
If this candy-flavored tobacco is the first thing these minors have tried, we might be able to make the claim that it entices them. However, if they already have tried tobacco in other forms before trying flavored tobacco, then it’s really not any more harmful than regular tobacco.
Also, if the law already prohibits the sale of tobacco to people under the age of 18, what could discouraging the sale of flavored tobacco to adults possibly do to further the cause?
While we do not explicitly advocate the use of tobacco products, we do not see how prohibiting or discouraging the sale of candy-flavored tobacco will do much to curb the use of tobacco by teens.
Still, according to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, cigarette use among teens is declining substantially from year to year across every age group.
Although the city has not yet proposed to ban this flavored tobacco, it is not unlikely that it eventually will.
All it takes is more pressure from anti-tobacco advocates such as Romero, as well as an appeal to the desires of politicians to “protect the children,” and we could see it banned in no time.
We strongly discourage the city commission from going further on this issue, for a few unintended reasons.
As in every case of prohibition, a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco to adults will definitely lead to an underground market in the area for these products.
Then, because of the prohibition, the police will be tasked with putting people in jail for selling flavored tobacco in the area. Do we really need to put more people in jail for engaging in voluntary commerce?
If we want to prevent minors from using tobacco, the last thing we want to do is make it illegal. Instead, parents and educators should explain the possible negative side effects of the product and talk to minors like they’re adults.
Treating minors like children through the heavy hand of the law and a resounding “no” will do little to influence their future decisions.
Let us hope that Gainesville does not follow other cities such as Miami and New York City in banning flavored tobacco sales.