Student group wants flavored tobacco products banned

Posted at: 06/12/2014 5:56 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A dedicated team of young New Mexicans has a mission – to ban flavored tobacco products altogether, not just flavored cigarettes. Now they've done some research to give that mission some muscle.

They're high school students involved with the New Mexico Department of Health's "Evolvement" program and Thursday they released a survey that reveals some troubling information.

The students polled almost 2,500 New Mexicans – adults as well as kids – in 87 communities around the state. They found that 85 percent of New Mexico's youth are more likely to try a flavored cigarillo than a regular one. A surprising number, 21 percent, think it's safer than regular tobacco.

The students are a little dismayed at the numbers, but more determined than ever to expand the current federal ban on flavored cigarettes to cover all types of flavored tobacco products.

"The tobacco industry is definitely trying to hook youth like me up on their products, just to replace their dying customers," said Aline Armstead of Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho. "I don't want to replace a dead person!"

"At my school there's a huge tobacco issue," said John Michael Weaver of Los Alamos High School. "There's even a corner where 30 or 40 or 50 kids, during passing periods, that's a 10 minute period, will go and use tobacco during school hours."

"I knew about the dangers of tobacco smoke," said Flora Abucushalamu of Las Cruces High School. "Now I'm actually a lot more aware of it, to the point where I can talk to other people, like my peers who are completely unaware."

The students did find some very welcome support in their survey – 63 percent of those responding favor a ban on all flavored tobacco products. Among kids, it's about 50 percent.

The survey sampled almost 2,500 New Mexicans in 87 communities around the state.