City at center of debate over flavored cigars

July 17, 2008|By Lynn Anderson

City health officials have received a large number of comments - pro and con - about a proposed ban on the sale of single cheap cigars, which tend to be smoked by young people who like them because they come in flavors such as grape, cherry and vanilla.

The city's proposal has garnered national attention because if the ban is enacted, Baltimore would be the first municipality to take such a stand against the cigars, which are sold under the names Black & Mild, White Owl and The Game. On the street, the cigars are sometimes called "blunts" or "loosies."

Among the groups who responded to the city's request for comments were the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Cigar Association of America Inc., the American Lung Association of Maryland and 7-Eleven Inc. The city Health Department posted the responses on its Web site yesterday.

"There's a lot of interest around the country in what's happening," said city Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, who joined Mayor Sheila Dixon in introducing the proposed ban May 28 at City Hall. Of the comments from health and industry groups, Sharfstein said he would "take them seriously."

The cigar association stated in its response that members believe Sharfstein does not have the legal authority to enact such a law. 7-Eleven also opposes the ban, according to a representative, because the chain's stores sell single cigars, mostly to adults, who find that it is economical to buy the cigars one at a time.

The American Lung Association of Maryland and the Bloomberg School of Public Health both support the ban.

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