Monday, March 2, 2009

Look Mom, candy mints that sure pack a nicotine punch!

Question: Are the cigarette makers really, truly targeting kids? Answer: of course they are.

This is such a tired topic, so I'm a tad surprised that I'm choosing to comment on it. Yet it has such a fun new little twist...

In case you haven't heard, Orbs Dissolvable Tobacco is being test marketed in Portland, Columbus and Indianapolis by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. These little pellets look like mints (and taste like...I don't know what but my guess is that they don't taste like crushed up cigarettes). Reynolds is also planning to test the Orbs in a chewable stick and a strip form later this spring.

The critics are already upset, understandably so:

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says "They are likely to appeal to children because they are flavored and packaged like candy, are easy to conceal even in a classroom and carry the Camel brand that is already so popular with underage smokers."

And the American Cancer Society says "it's a very dangerous product for children, who tend to become addicted more quickly."

R.J. Reynolds-- of course-- says the product is meant for adults and has warning labels on the package and can only be sold to adults 18 and older.

So here is my question: Is there anything about this product that isn't designed with kids in mind? Let's see... the candy-like flavor? The youthful colors and packaging? The cute camel silhouette? The highly addictive nature of the product? The fact that it's technically "off limits?"

Sara Troy Machir, spokeswoman of Star Scientific, a small tobacco company that sells two dissolvable products, Ariva and Stonewall is quoted in USA Today as saying "Teens like risk-taking behavior and a tablet, unlike a cigarette, won't lure them."

Wow. Did she really say that?

So really, it's a win-win for the tobacco companies. Continue the cradle-to-grave strategy (literally) by continuing to market to kids with not one, but multiple product offerings. Kids who don't initially go for the all-American appeal of the bright packaging and sweet candy-like taste of product number 1 might like the "risk taking" appeal and stench of the old standby product number 2.


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Marla said...

Screw the kids angle. I can't wait for a product that lets me get the nicotine I'm addicted to in a form that doesn't require me to smoke or spit. And anything that is off limits to kids is always going to be appealing to them.

I'm very tired of this argument. People need to talk to their kids about nicotine and stop blaming others for their own bad parenting.

Kelly said...

The "bad parenting" argument is used all the time--and is an easy scapegoat. True, parents have responsibility, but shouldn't mega tobacco corporations and mass media have responsibilities when targeting kids--a vulnerable population? Parents feel overwhelmed in combating: 1) at least 6.5 hours of screen time per day--outside of school--where kids are exposed to hundreds of ads and product placement that target them daily; 2) peer pressure--"everyone's doing it", 3)a culture where "popping a pill" is normalized. The pill form of nicotine is disturbing--makes it much more inconspicuous--and difficult to tell if kids are doing it. Responsibility should lie with the companies and advertisers that are peddling harmful products that target kids. Parents play a role, but responsibility should not lie solely on them.

Shaping Youth said...

Marla, as amusing as your pithy prose is, you're off the mark with the billions undermining 'good parenting' when we're faced with multinational corporations targeting our kids incessantly, and coming around the corner with toxic allure every time we seal off an entry point.

Whether it's BK 'burger shots' (normalizing binge drinking and junk food in one tidy hipster marketing messaging) or this crud with R.J. Reynolds rearing its head AGAIN (I've written extensively about the deliberate targeting of girls with their Camel pink think and Euro Pink Dreams cigs here: We're reaching a tipping point of toxicity.

Sooooo...I'll take a page out of YOUR commentary and add, "I'm very tired of this argument." Playing the blame game with parents is absurd when marketers have got kids in their crosshairs to the tune of BILLIONS creating a wink and nudge 'coolness cache' that we're forced to counter-market in the trenches in a battle for the hearts and minds of our own offspring...

"Talking to your kids about nicotine" is hardly a 'solution' as we 'bad parenting' folks slug away at the selling of "forbidden fruit" developmental motivators to "hook 'em while they're young" for corporate profit with the vice du jour...from caffeine and nicotine to alcohol and cigs. Just leave 'em alone I say!

Thankfully, at Shaping Youth, we're getting teens themselves involved with the backlash...THEY are the ones that are helping us turn this tanker around.

Allison, thanks for your article; e-blasted via Facebook; will do a follow up on our blog and add you to our links list. Oblige.

Amy Jussel
Founder/Exec. Dir.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how the hell these kids are getting their hands on these behind the counter products? I was never able to buy cigarettes when I was underage and now that I'm 26 I STILL get carded....I'm not defending tobacco companies, but I would like this issue to be discussed.

Host said...

So ... nicotine laced gum is an attempt to get kids hooked eh? Where were all of you when Nicoret came out?

This is hypersensitive fear mongering.

Dale C said...

Yes it is bad parenting, the kids are underage so who buys it for them?????