For underage smokers, a new law makes lighting up a lot less sweet.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, effective since September, forbids the manufacture and sale of fruit-, candy- and clove-flavored cigarettes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says target youth. According to the FDA, 17-year-old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes – hinting of vanilla, orange, chocolate, cherry and coffee – as smokers over the age of 25.

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni

“This law isn’t foolproof as it applies only to cigarettes,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni, noting that other products like cigars and chewing tobacco can be equally tempting. “Concerns are rising that manufacturers and retailers will now try to entice younger smokers to these other products. Still, this is a strong step in the right direction.”

In the U.S. and Canada, cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death, and underage smoking is a serious problem. Young smokers are often less fit than their nonsmoking peers. They are also more vulnerable to colds, flu and other respiratory problems. The ailments they often develop in later years – lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and coronary heart disease, to name a few – lead to billions of dollars in lost productivity and skyrocketing health expenditures.

Need Encouragement to Kick Your Habit?

The Great American Smokeout, an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society, provides just that. Held every year on the third Thursday of November, the Great American Smokeout challenges people to give up tobacco products for the day and then promotes tools to help give them up for good.

Research shows that smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have some means of support, such as:

  • Nicotine replacement products
  • Counseling
  • Top-smoking groups
  • Telephone smoking cessation hotlines
  • Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
  • Guide books
  • Encouragement and support from friends and family members

Telephone counseling is also available. Call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to find support in your area.

In the United States alone, one out of every five deaths is linked to cigarette smoking.

So why do youngsters start smoking?

According to the American Cancer Society, peer pressure plays a significant role but is by no means the only reason. An article in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine says the impact of the motion picture industry cannot be ignored. Studies find that smoking turns up even in children’s movies, including “G-rated” fare like 102 Dalmatians and Muppets from Space. Interviews with children and their parents after seeing smoking portrayed on the screen, even if only in the background, conclude that a substantial number of young viewers are influenced to give cigarettes a try.

Television can also be problematic. Celebrities and singers smoke on-screen; cigarette use is frequent in reality shows and turns up in popular series like The Simpsons.

Parents and other adults can discourage children from smoking by not smoking themselves, condemning the habit and being aware of what their children are watching on TV and in the movie theaters. They can also encourage them to take up team sports. A new study finds that participation in sporting activities lowers the odds of children picking up the smoking habit. A number of websites like the American Lung Association offer suggestions to discourage smoking as well as how to quit.

“Unfortunately, Laborers smoke at rates significantly above the national average,” Sabitoni points out. “If you’re one of them, perhaps the strongest thing you can do to keep your kids from taking up the habit is to try to quit. Your efforts will send a strong message about the danger of smoking and the difficulty of quitting. Conversely, if you don’t try, you send the message that smoking’s okay.”

The Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America has a number of publications on this subject. You can access this information at

[Janet Lubman Rathner]