When it comes to cigarettes, the federal government can blow smoke with the best of them. . .
[T]he Food and Drug Administration announced it was prohibiting the sale of cigarettes with candy or fruit flavors. "These flavored cigarettes . . . will break that cycle [of addiction] for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily.". .
You would never know from the government's pronouncements that the nation's three major tobacco companies -- R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and Lorillard -- don't even make them. Notorious lines like Warm Winter Toffee and Winter Mocha Mint were removed from the market years ago. The only flavor the major producers use anymore is menthol, which happens to be one the FDA chose not to ban.
Only a few small companies still offer the sort of flavors targeted by the government. According to one maker, Kretek International, these cigarettes account for less than two-tenths of 1 percent of all U.S. sales. . . 87 percent of all high school smokers choose Marlboro, Camel or Newport, which don't come in tutti-frutti flavors. . .
The government's figures on kids who start smoking are equally deceptive. When the assistant HHS secretary says 3,600 youngsters start smoking daily, he's not using those terms in the way most people would. I smoked a couple of cigarettes in my youth, but I never "started smoking," any more than I "started speaking Chinese" the one time I attended a Mandarin class.
It's true that 3,600 kids under the age of 17 try cigarettes for the first time every day, but that doesn't mean they will all become nicotine junkies. Many if not most of the experimenters soon lose interest. By the government's own account, only about 1,000 teens each day become daily smokers. . .
Lost in the government's propaganda is that if the tobacco companies are trying to recruit kids into smoking, they are doing a very poor job at it. Last year, the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey found that smoking among high school seniors is at the lowest level in the 33 years the project has been keeping track. Among 8th graders, tobacco use is down by two-thirds since the mid-1990s; among 12th-graders, smoking rates have fallen by nearly half. Only 11 percent of 12th-graders smoke every day.