Philly City Council looks to crack down on flavored tobacco sales to youth

     Electronic cigarettes or vaping devices (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Electronic cigarettes or vaping devices (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Philadelphia City Council is looking to crack down on stores selling flavored tobacco to young people.

    According to city health officials, 23 percent of tobacco retailers sold to minors, compared to 11 percent statewide in 2015.

    While the number of young people in Phialdelphia who smoke cigarettes has decreased, cigar use increased by 75 percent between 2011 and 2015 and they are increasingly experimenting with e-cigarettes. 

    Councilman Curtis Jones said he believes companies are marketing these products to children by putting them in colorful packages, adding candy, fruit and other flavors and placing them near other products young people buy.

    “If you put it right next to Skittles, you wouldn’t know the difference,” he said.

    Jones said he worries young people who use flavored tobacco products will eventually graduate to smoking marijuana. While he voted in favor of a bill to decriminalize small amounts of pot, Jones said he does not want to encourage its use, especially among youth.

    “I voted for decriminalization of marijuana so that those same kids wouldn’t be stopped and put in jail,” he said. “It is still illegal when we’re writing it as a summons and a ticket, but I don’t want small businesses tareting them as a target of opportunity, selling a product that is a gateway to the use of marijuana.”

    Jones plans to hold hearings on the issue sometime before council takes its summer break at the end of June. 

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.