2005-08-25 / Top Stories

Senator’s Smoking About “Real-Looking” Novelty Cigarettes

They look like cigarettes, blow “smoke” like cigarettes and light up when you puff on them. They’re also readily available to minors. They’re marketed as “Puff Cigarettes” or “Puff Puff Cigarettes” — and after spotting youngsters as young as five years old “smoking” them in area playgrounds, New York State Senator Carl Kruger plans to introduce legislation banning the sale of these “realistic-looking” cig-arettes to minors.

“All this item does is mimic the act of smoking,” Kruger said of the toy cigarettes, which typically sell for 99 cents for a package of two and are sold on ice cream trucks and in novelty stores. “This is the absolute last message we want to be sending our children.”

Kruger said a Google search for “Puff Cigarettes” this week yielded 196,000 hits. One Web site contained this description: “Looks exactly like a burning cigarette complete with scorch marks and ashes. Blow into the end and a puff of smoke appears. You can really fool people with this powder filled device.”

“The packaging (see graphic at left) doesn’t even list the ingredients. What is in this powder exactly? And why are are we letting our children near it?” Kruger said.

He noted that Puff Cigarettes have already been banned in Australia because they contain “hydrated magnesium silicate or like substances.”

Ingredients aside, the lawmaker cited a study in the British Medical Journal co-authored by Dr. Jonathan Klein, a pediatrics professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, NY, which examined the connection between candy cigarettes and smoking.

After scrutinizing the relationship between tobacco and candy cigarette manufacturers, Klein and his coauthor, Steve St. Clair, an assistant attorney general in the Iowa Department of Justice, concluded that the two industries have collaborated for decades to keep the candy cigarette industry afloat and have promoted candy cigarettes, which likely encourage children to smoke.

Candy cigarettes are either restricted or banned in many countries, the study found, including Canada, the UK, Norway and Australia. In the U.S., legislation banning them has been proposed twice at the federal level, in 11 states and in New York City. North Dakota was the only state to actually ban them, in 1953. The ban was re-pealed in 1967.

“In this day and age, banning the sale of these novelty cigarettes to minors is the only morally responsible thing to do,” Sen. Kruger said.

“Allowing their sale to continue runs counter-productive to the nationwide effort to prevent smoking among our youth.”

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