A group of anti-tobacco advocates in Philadelphia has asked City Council to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the city.
On Thursday, just before Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. was to propose legislation to restrict the sale of one type of flavored cigars and cigarillos, often sold in small, cheap packs that resemble candy wrappers, the group gathered at City Hall to register its position. Jones has held hearings to review the impact of flavored tobacco products on children.
"The bill does not go far enough," said the Rev. Jesse Brown of the Ban Menthol Cigarettes Campaign. It does not deal with menthol, hookah, Juuls and other nicotine delivery products, he said.
Menthol, which is not listed as a flavor, reduces the harshness of smoke and is used by more than 80 percent of all African Americans who smoke, said Mark Harrell of the Southwest Community Development Corp., one of the advocates. Tobacco companies that use additives to lure new smokers will still be able to do so, he said.
"Preventing tobacco use by children is one of the best strategies that we can do to promote health in our communities," said Yvonne Florence, a volunteer with American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "This has long been a strategy of Big Tobacco. If you can get a young person to begin using tobacco at an early age, you may have a consumer for life."
African Americans spend $3.3 billion a year on tobacco products, Brown said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than whites. In 2013, nearly 30 percent of African American adults used tobacco products, compared with the all-races rate of 17.8 percent.
Products containing additives such as menthol are often given more shelf space in retail outlets within minority neighborhoods, according to the CDC.
"There is no second step," Brown said about Jones' proposed legislation. "We want this first step to be the best step."