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New rules aim to keep kids away from tobacco
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With the implementation of new industry regulations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hopes to change the face of tobacco users.

Effective Tuesday, the FDA has established new rules regarding the sale, distribution and marketing of tobacco products. According to the administration, the goal of the new requirements is to “curb access to and the appeal of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to children and adolescents.”

The new rules prohibit the sale of packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes and also prohibit the distribution of free cigarette samples.

“Where are they giving these sample out at? I’ve never seen any free give-aways,” said Ellen Long, a 33-year-old Gainesville resident.
“That just seems like another useless rule.”

The new requirements prohibit tobacco companies from being the “brand name sponsor” of any athletic, musical or social event or team. The rules also prohibit companies from using music or sound effects in audio ads, giving gifts with purchases or distributing promotional items with their logo.

“That’s probably a good idea. Even if kids don’t know exactly what the product is, they’ll remember the logo if they see it over and over again,” said James Johnson, a 22-year-old Gainesville resident.

“Subconsciously they may store it and then when they get older and see it in the store, they’re like ‘I remember that. Maybe I should try it.’ It’s kind of like seeing food commercials late at night. You may not be hungry, but you keep seeing the commercials, and suddenly you want it.”

This isn’t the first time that a federal agency has made a ruling against the industry’s marketing practices. In May 1997, the Federal Trade Commission charged that the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. violated federal law by promoting “an addictive and dangerous product that was attractive to those too young to purchase cigarettes legally.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, the company’s advertisements featuring the Joe Camel cartoon character successfully “induced many young people to begin smoking or to continue smoking cigarettes and as a result caused significant injury to their health and safety.”

In July of that year, the R.J. Reynolds company agreed to retire the cartoon character.

“I remember when that happened. My middle school had a funeral for him. There was a cardboard casket with a paper mâché Joe Camel inside it, outside of the cafeteria,” said Shayla Riddle, a 26-year-old Cumming resident.

“All of the kids had to write on a little sheet of paper why we wouldn’t smoke cigarettes, and as we went to lunch, we’d drop our paper in his casket.”

Although Riddle remembers the cartoon ads, she says that they didn’t influence her decision to start smoking as a 17-year-old.

“I had an older cousin that smoked, so sometimes when we would hang out I’d puff on his cigarette. That’s how it started — sneaking a puff,” Riddle said.

“By the time that I was 20, I was going through a pack every three or four days. I tried quitting when I was 23, but it didn’t stick until I was 25. Regardless of ads, I think a child’s family has the greatest influence on whether or not they decide to start smoking.”