Every day 1,000 kids become regular, daily smokers, and one-third of them will die prematurely as a result. Joe Camel might be a scheme of the past, but the tobacco industry continues to find ways to target children through product design and advertising.

A new report released by leading public health organizations, “Big Tobacco’s Guinea Pigs: How an Unregulated Industry Experiments on America’s Kids and Consumers,” shows the extent tobacco manufacturers take advantage of the lack of regulation over its industry to find novel ways to entice new users.

Tobacco companies know that almost all new smokers are children. To attract children, they add candy flavorings like strawberry and grape to their products. They also know that smoking is unpleasant for new smokers, so they carefully design the product to make it less harsh by adding sugars and chemicals that numb the throat. They even address how the cigarette should be designed so that the novice smoker can light it more easily.

Bipartisan legislation pending in Congress would grant the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. The FDA would gain the authority to require the disclosure of product ingredients, crack down on tobacco marketing, and take other steps to protect public health.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in our country. It is time to stop our kids from being treated as guinea pigs and start holding tobacco manufacturers accountable. Our elected officials in Washington, D.C. should support this life saving legislation.

Wendy Tardif, Auburn

District Tobacco Coordinator, Healthy Androscoggin

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