The tobacco industry sells its products along with addiction, health problems and death. To sweeten the deal, Big Tobacco sweetened its products.

Flavors like bubblegum, strawberry cream cake and menthol in vape, cigarettes and chew do more than appeal to young people. They mask the truth behind Big Tobacco’s strategy — to lure in young, new users to replace the lifetime tobacco users it’s killing with its deadly products.1

But this didn’t happen overnight. The tobacco industry has worked hard to research, design, and manufacture their products to attract and addict new users, and make it harder for them to quit. Adding things like flavors and menthol helped them do this.2

Let’s unflavor the lie the tobacco industry is trying to hide.


Big Tobacco's Tasteless Marketing

Tobacco companies used to sell cigarettes with ads that featured doctors claiming that filtered cigarettes were healthier, or celebrities saying they prefer the taste of menthol. The ads may have changed, but Big Tobacco still uses the same tactics today. 

While you’re not likely to see a doctor promoting a cigarette brand, the tobacco industry still advertises menthol cigarettes and vaping products based on the false idea that the cooling sensation makes them safer than unflavored alternatives.

Some Groups are Targets of Flavored Tobacco

Flavored tobacco products addict generation after generation, harming countless communities and families. 

Big Tobacco sells a wide variety of products and flavors to target specific groups of people and attract younger users. The industry has a long history of targeting the Black, Hispanic, and LBGTQ+ communities as well as young people. 

For decades, the tobacco industry has pushed menthol-flavored cigarettes on the African American community using coupons, ads and event sponsorships. Today, nearly 90 percent of Black people who use cigarettes use menthol3 as do half of all Hispanic people who smoke.2,4

The tobacco industry is using its foothold in communities of color to fight bans on flavored products. By sponsoring public figures in the Black community, the tobacco industry is spreading the message that flavor bans discriminate against African Americans. But the preference for menthol didn’t happen by accident. It was all part of Big Tobacco’s tasteless strategy that continues today. 

The tobacco companies targeted LGBTQ+ groups in similar ways. People in those communities have been targeted with ads in LGBTQ+ publications, cigarette giveaways, and free merchandise to get and keep them hooked. Today LGBTQ+ people are nearly twice as likely to use e-cigarettes and little cigars, which are frequently flavored, compared to heterosexual and cisgender adults.

Communities targeted by the tobacco industry will benefit the most when highly addictive flavored tobacco products are kept off of store shelves.

The Tobacco Industry Sells Candy (Flavors) to Kids

The tobacco industry intentionally uses candylike flavors to hide the harshness of nicotine. 

After Juul, the most recognizable e-cigarette brand, hit the market, the company focused on hooking new users. It went after teenage users with ads on youth-focused websites

Flavored tobacco products are becoming more tightly regulated now, but e-cigarette companies are finding ways around the rules by coming up with new products, like synthetic nicotine products that leave out the tobacco plant but leave in the fruity flavors, addictive nicotine and harmful chemicals that make these products so dangerous.

The tobacco industry uses sweet, seemingly harmless flavors to hook kids and profit off their lifetime addiction. Nearly 9 out of 10 people who smoke cigarettes daily begin before they’re 18 years old5 and studies show that 81% of people who say they’ve ever used tobacco started with a flavored product.6

Limiting access to highly addictive and deadly flavored tobacco products protects our kids and helps them grow into healthier adults.

We All Pay the Price for Tobacco

Quitting smoking is hard enough; but the taste and cooling sensation of menthol cigarettes makes them even harder to quit. Quitting typically takes multiple attempts, but people who smoke the most menthol cigarettes tend to make more attempts to quit than people who smoke non-menthol cigarettes yet are less likely to successfully quit smoking7.

And tobacco-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for people in the Black community. This is especially significant in Colorado where menthol cigarette use among Black adults is three times higher than white adults. Black Coloradans are more likely to want to quit smoking, have made a recent attempt to quit smoking and use proven cessation strategies like the Colorado Quitline or nicotine replacement therapy like lozenges or gum.8

Across all groups, smoking-related illnesses cost Coloradans $2 billion per year in increased healthcare costs, approximately $690 per household.9

This cost comes from health care spending that can be attributed to the treatment of smoking-related illnesses and is paid by public health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Since these health care costs are covered by public health insurance programs, which are funded through state and federal dollars, the cost for these treatments is passed on to taxpayers, regardless of whether or not they use tobacco.

Flavors are used to make tobacco easier to use and harder to stop. Let’s Unflavor the Lie.

1. Tobacco Company Quotes on Marketing to Kids”; Tobacco Free Kids.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014
3. Menthol Smoking and Related Health Disparities, CDC.
4. Tobacco Brand Preferences, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2021.
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012.
6. Ambrose BK, Day HR, Rostron B, Conway KP, Borek N, Hyland A, Villanti AC. Flavored Tobacco Product Use Among US Youth Aged 12-17 Years, 2013-2014. JAMA. 2015 Nov 3;314(17):1871-3. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.13802. PMID: 26502219; PMCID: PMC6467270.
7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2020.
8. 2018 Tobacco Attitudes and Behavior survey
9. The Toll of Tobacco on Colorado. Tobacco Free Kids CO.