By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY, NY - The proliferation of tobacco products aimed at teenagers, such as hookahs and candy-flavored cigars, has led to an increase in use among high-school students, state records show.
The state chapter of the American Cancer Society on Friday called for the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to adopt toughen laws against the sale of the products. Friday is World No Tobacco Day organized by health advocates.
"We know from both internal documents and common sense what 'Big Tobacco's' plotting: use candy-flavored non-cigarette tobacco products to get our kids hooked, so they can then 'graduate' to traditional brands. It's appalling," Blair Horner, vice president for advocacy at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in a statement.
New York City in 2009 restricted the sale of tobacco products aimed at teenagers, but the state hasn't followed suit, the group said.
In a report in April, the state Department of Health estimated that 154,000 high school students, about 16 percent of high-school aged youth, used tobacco products such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, or hookahs in the past 30 days. That's up from nearly 14 percent in 2011 and 10 percent in 2006.
Abigail Stupple, 17, of Eastchester, Westchester County, has been active in cancer-prevention efforts. She said she's disheartened by how some high-school students are increasingly using the tobacco products.
"I have some of my own friends who use them recreationally because they don't see the harmful side effects of it," said Stupple, a junior at Tuckahoe High School. "It just looks like a fun candy, something that tastes good, something they can do on a Friday night when they are bored."
In 2009, Congress enacted the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that banned flavors other than menthol in cigarettes. Instead, health advocates said tobacco companies have turned to other flavored tobacco products, particularly "little cigars."
For example, Swisher Sweets come in cherry, strawberry, peach and grape flavors, and Captain Black sells little cigars in flavors such as "Tahitian Cherry," and "Madagascar Vanilla," the American Cancer Society's report found.
So nationally, cigarette use decreased 33 percent from 2000 to 2011, but non-cigarette tobacco sales increased 123 percent, according to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Cancer Society said.