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Campaign will raise awareness about dangers of flavored tobacco products

Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, said the state has launched a campaign called “Flavors Hook Kids” to warn African American communities about how children are being targeted by the tobacco industry.

According to McGruder, children are being enticed by flavored tobacco which can be used in e-cigarettes. McGruder said there are a variety of flavors, including chicken and waffles and gummy bears. These new flavors entice young people, as the tobacco industry tries to attract a new generation of smokers. McGruder added that e-cigarettes are also being pushed as new and hip, but it’s still a way of consuming tobacco.

“They’re spreading like wildfire,” she said. “Young people are getting addicted to them.”

McGruder said there are videos on YouTube that show children how to smoke by disguising their e-cigs as data storage devices.

McGruder also described e-cigs as a “trojan horse.”

“It becomes a gateway to cigarettes,” she said.

According to McGruder, e-cigs can also bypass laws that forbid cigarettes being advertised on TV.

The new anti-tobacco campaign will be promoted through radio, television and print outlets.

“This statewide campaign is targeting parents throughout California including the Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Parents should be seeing and hearing the “Flavors Hook Kids” advertising messages on broadcast and cable television, digital, radio, print, and outdoor (e.g., gas station pump toppers and billboards), in several languages (English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog,)” according to a statement from the California Department of Public Health.

Funds come from Proposition 56, California’s tobacco tax. McGruder said that funds will also be available to African-American organizations who want to promote anti-smoking efforts.

A long-time anti-smoking advocate, McGruder added that the African-American community has been specifically targeted by the tobacco industry, especially through media such as Ebony.

She added that as smoking becomes less popular in the West, the tobacco industry is using images of African Americans to market products to consumers in Africa. In addition, menthols are popular in the African-American community, but according to a CBS Market Report story, they are harder to quit. Menthol cigarettes contain an ingredient that adds taste and make it easier to consume.

McGruder added that tobacco still remains the leading cause of death for African Americans. The Center for Disease Control lists heart disease, cancer and stroke as the three leading causes of death for African Americans. McGruder said many of these ailments are related to years of smoking.

The City of San Francisco is already ahead of the curve on this issue. The city passed an ordinance that barred the sale of menthols and all flavored tobacco products in 2017.

“Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, specifically cancers. This legislation will have a tremendous impact on the disturbing disparities for tobacco-related illnesses, and will reduce the number of new tobacco users that pick up the habit annually,” said San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen after the law passed.

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