Lawmaker targets flavored cigars

Youths are smoking Black & Milds


October 16, 2007|By Sumathi Reddy | Sumathi Reddy,SUN REPORTER

State legislation to more tightly regulate the sale of Black & Milds - flavored cigars popular in urban centers across the country - could be introduced as early as the special session set to begin later this month.

Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant, a Baltimore City Democrat, said yesterday he hopes to propose legislation to prohibit the sale of single Black & Mild cigars and to make it more difficult to reach them in stores.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Hoke Dachille, an assistant professor and managing director at the Center for Tobacco Regulation at the University of Maryland School of Law, said she is working with several legislators to prevent the sale of flavored tobacco, which would include the Black & Mild cigars that come in flavors such as cream, wine and apple.

The comments came during a public forum on Black & Mild cigars yesterday at the Youth Opportunity (Yo!) Community Center in West Baltimore.

Orchestrated by the Baltimore City Health Department, the forum featured public health researchers, young adults and legal experts.

The panel followed the Health Department's release last week of a report outlining the health risks and popularity of Black & Milds. The report cited statistics from a recent Johns Hopkins study, which found that 24 percent of the 18- to 24-year-old African-Americans in Baltimore surveyed said they smoked a Black & Mild at least once in the past 30 days.

The report also noted that although Black & Milds pose the same health risks as cigarettes, they are classified as cigars because they are wrapped in a different material - ensuring they are not subject to the same taxes and restrictions. Black & Milds can be sold as singles, they are taxed at a lower rate, and they carry fewer health warnings on their labels than cigarettes.

Young smokers who spoke on the panel yesterday said Black & Milds are usually inhaled like cigarettes and are cheap.

Panelists also spoke about how Black & Milds are marketed to young people with slogans such as "Smells great" and "tastes great," and are often placed near candy and gum.

Jamila Wilson, 17, said she's been smoking Black & Milds since she was 15. "It gives you a buzz if you smoke the wine flavor," she said. "I tried to quit and I got lightheaded and got headaches."

Holland Coates, 19, said she smoked Black & Milds about five years ago and then moved on to cigarettes. She said she was first attracted to Black & Milds because it made her look like she was smoking marijuana and she hoped she could get the same kind of high from it.

Dachille noted Maine became the first state to pass legislation prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco this year.

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