Anti-tobacco group highlights non-cigarette tobacco products

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Mar 11 2013 05:05:00 PM HST

Dozens of Hawaii teenagers are out on the street kicking some butts, but that's a good thing.

HONOLULU -

A very visible demonstration was held Monday at the State Capitol against a problem anti-tobacco activists say few people are aware of, even though it is in plain sight.

Unlike cigarettes, which have to remain behind the counter, non-cigarette tobacco products can be prominently displayed.  Some fear it will end up in the hands of young adults.

"Since they are in places that are accessible to youth, it's easy to get their hands on them," said Makeda Morris, an activist with anti-tobacco group REAL.

REAL is raising concerns because teens are buying these products like smokeless tobacco and flavored tobacco, which are aimed at non-traditional tobacco users.

"When you see products that are more youth-oriented with flavors like grape and that look like candy, then youth are more prone to buying them," said Morris.

A bill being heard at the State Capitol could force retailers to put those products behind counters.  It could also prevent ads for cigarettes and tobacco products from being displayed near items bought by children and young adults.

"Everyday youth are exposed to it," said REAL Project Coordinator Nicole Sutton.

According to lawmakers, $42 million is spent by tobacco companies annually on advertisements.

Since they can't use mass marketing, like television, to get their word out, many companies rely on ads at stores where tobacco is sold.

But, the current bill could shield young people form some of that everyday exposure and reduce the temptation to try tobacco products.

"We know the tobacco industry needs young people if they are going to continue to be successful in their business.  They need young people as customers now so they will be lifetime customers," said Sutton.

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