Press Releases

Contact: Madeline Daniels
Phone: (202) 657-0664
Email: madelined@firstfocus.net
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Children Targeted by Nicotine Retailers with Popular Candy and Cereal Brands, Report Finds

Safety

Washington – The manufacturers and retailers of liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes routinely market to children by using popular brand names of candy and cereal like “Skittles,” “Swedish Fish,” and “Apple Jacks.” A report released today by bipartisan advocacy organization First Focus exposed 500 cases of liquid nicotine being sold as trusted brand names by U.S. retailers.

“Liquid nicotine retailers aren’t hiding their abusive marketing, they’re advertising it to children right under the noses of candy and cereal companies,” said First Focus president Bruce Lesley. “When regulators and companies don’t crack down on egregious marketing, they’re failing children and families. And the consequences could be deadly.”

The New Joe Camel in Your Pantry reviewed 178 liquid nicotine retailers’ websites and found 500 cases of liquid nicotine being marketed as 62 brands of candy and cereal owned by 25 companies. The companies whose brand names were most frequently used to market liquid nicotine were:

Company/Division/Subsidiary Cases
William Wrigley Jr. Company (Mars, Incorporated) 140
Mondelēz International, Inc. 53
The Hershey Company 51
Ferrara Candy Company 44
The Willy Wonka Candy Company (Nestlé S.A.) 35
General Mills, Inc. 34
Tootsie Roll Industries 26
Kellogg Company 20
Mars, Incorporated 17
Just Born, Inc. 14
Quaker Oats Company (PepsiCo Inc.) 14

 

The brand names most frequently used to market liquid nicotine were:

Company/Division/Subsidiary Cases
Skittles 54
Swedish Fish 51
Juicy Fruit 40
Jolly Rancher 38
SweeTarts 23
Fruit Stripe 20
Red Hots 20
Doublemint 17
Snickers 17
Apple Jacks 16
Cinnamon Toast Crunch 16

 

“The lack of federal regulation of e-cigarettes has created a ‘wild west’ where children’s favorite cereal spokescharacters are now selling them tobacco,” said Lesley. “The fact that so many e-cigarette retailers have gotten away with this proves that the federal government isn’t paying enough attention.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last year that e-cigarette liquid nicotine poisoning incidents had spiked dramatically from 2010 through 2014. CDC observed that more than half of the poison control center calls due to liquid nicotine concerned children under 5, citing their marketing using “candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.” Nicotine poisoning has killed at least one child.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recently issued draft regulations on the marketing of e-cigarettes. Existing FDA regulations already ban combustible cigarette sales to children, as well as the sale of some candy or fruit-flavored tobacco products. Despite warnings by the CDC that marketing played a role in the spike of child nicotine poisonings, existing FDA regulations do not address the marketing of e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine to children, and the FDA proposal also fails to address these critical issues.

CDC also cited concerns with the tamper-resistance of liquid nicotine packaging, observing that e-cigarette liquids are “a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof.” While FDA has posed packaging questions to industry and advocates, the agency has already extended the public comment period and faces no deadline for action. The Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation requiring child-resistant packaging for liquid nicotine, was introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 142) in January and in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 1375) in March. The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the bill sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) in February, but Senate leadership has yet to schedule floor debate. The House Energy and Commerce Committee acted just last week, approving the bill sponsored by Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-Connecticut).

“Our report exposes the rampant use of candy and cereal flavors used to market tobacco to our children,” said Lesley, “The health and safety of our kids is at risk and it requires the immediate attention of our lawmakers. We call on Congress to look into the egregious marketing of flavored tobacco to youth, the lack of regulatory response, and potentially deadly consequences.”

Download the report.

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First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.firstfocus.org.