15th May 2018

Tobacco companies look to recruit next generation of smokers with products aimed at children

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According to one of the world’s leading tobacco company, it is their goal “to replace cigarettes with the smoke-free products”. It is something many other tobacco giants echo.

On paper, it sounds like an ethical, even honourable aim. Smoking tobacco is one of the biggest causes of lung cancer, with more than 8 out of 10 cases caused by smoking. The eradication of cigarettes would have a huge impact on lung cancer incidence rates.  

Yet we raise a sceptical eyebrow. These companies have and continue to profit from people’s vulnerability. And now we learn that some of these new products are being made to look like sweets and marketed at children.

Products such as Candy King Sour Worms resemble gummy sweets while Juice Box and V’nilla Cookies and Milk look like a carton of juice and pack of biscuits respectively.

As a result, the American Drugs Watchdog has warned manufacturers against ‘deliberately mislabelling their products’. The Department of Health in the UK, where all of these products are available to buy, is ‘closely monitoring’ the situation.

Scott Gottlieb, a commissioner at the US Food and Drug Administration, comments:

“No child should be using any tobacco product and no tobacco product should be marketed in a way that endangers kids, especially by using imagery that misleads them into thinking the products are things they’d eat or drink.

“Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use and we’ll continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion.”

How safe are e-cigarettes?

Earlier this year, Public Health England (PHE) published its e-cigarette evidence review. The primary finding was that “vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits”.

According to the review, e-cigarette use is also associated with improved quit success rates and could contribute to at least 20,000 successful new quits each year.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, comments:

“We are welcoming of the latest report by Public Health England. As the only UK lung cancer charity, we have been helping people quit smoking for nearly 25 years and are in full support of all ways to help people stop.

However, we are concerned that there simply isn’t enough evidence around the long-term impact of e-cigarettes. Let’s not forget, there was a time when we were unaware of the dangers of cigarettes.

Paula Chadwick, CEO of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

“There can be little doubt that more work is needed to improve the understanding of these devices. We need to ensure that this is a priority of the Government, to support the appropriate research in this area.”

Commenting on the marketing techniques employed by some e-cigarette brands, she added:

“I am horrified to see such blatant exploitation of our most vulnerable generation. Whilst these products are tobacco-free, they still contain nicotine, making them highly addictive. These companies are clearly trying to recruit the next generation of customers at the earliest possible age.”

If you are trying to quit smoking, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation provides a free online forum – Quit Support. Offering help and advice, tips and encouragement, this free service is completely judgement free and boasts many success stories, stories like Leigh Webber:

Leigh Webber used our Quit Support service to stop smoking

“When I turned 50, I realised enough was enough. I needed to give up smoking. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task but I am the kind of person that once I set my mind to something I will do it! I was prepared to put in whatever time, research and effort I needed to give up and be happy not to smoke.

“I set about it like a project. I started researching the internet and reading books, ready to rise to the challenge. I looked at classic habit times and gradually starting changing them into a good habit. For example, instead of having a cigarette at break time in work, I stopped taking my cigarettes with me and started having a banana and a yogurt.

“After dinner, instead of going straight the backdoor for a smoke, I would go on my laptop and find a stop smoking support group – Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s Quit Support site was my lifeline!

“People on there were really encouraging. They have all either gone through it and are going through it so completely understand what you are experiencing. It played a crucial part in helping me quit.”