Valdosta, GA - Strawberry flavored cigars and grape flavored dip. They might sound sweet and innocent, but the harmful effects of candy flavored tobacco are very real.
"The youth are the ones the tobacco companies are targeting. They are not targeting traditional smokers," said Tony Ogburn, Hamilton County Tobacco Prevention Specialist.
The Jasper, Florida City Council unanimously passed a resolution last month urging local retailers to stop selling all flavored tobacco products. Similar resolutions have been passed by neighboring cities in White Springs and Jennings, as well as by the Hamilton County Commissioners.
But a resolution is only symbolic; it doesn't have any real legal power.
"The resolution is our first step towards hopefully progressing towards an ordinance in the future," Ogburn said.
Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg smelled a Swisher Sweet Blunt that was grape flavored. He noted it smelled just like bubblegum. Then he smelled grape flavored children's bubblegum. And he noted they smelled exactly the same. But the tobacco product may have been more potent.
Ogburn says some tobacco products are finding their way into the classroom like mint flavored Snus.
"They just insert these into their mouth and most of the time the teachers can never even catch that these are in their mouth," said Ogburn.
Students at Hamilton County High School are getting involved too. Madihah Tomoney is president of "SWAT", "Students Working Against Tobacco". That's under the "Hamilton County Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Coalition", a part of "Tobacco Free Florida".
SWAT president Madihah Tomoney described her experience in the program.
"Getting involved, dealing with students, actually being able to talk to the students hands on and sharing my experiences," Tomoney said.
Ogburn says seven stores sell flavored tobacco in Jasper. They range from neighborhood gas stations to major chains like CVS. So we checked to see if they're taking the resolution seriously. And we found all seven are still selling it.
And the candy flavored tobacco is also pretty cheap. You can get a can of dip for just $2. And cigars can be even less than that.
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