ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ They're called ``Winter Warm Toffee,'' ``Kauai Kolada,'' and ``Twista Chill,'' but the flavored cigarettes are leaving a bad taste in the mouths of lawmakers who say they should be banned because they target young people.
Anti-smoking groups have charged that tobacco companies, particularly Reynolds American Inc., are luring teenagers into the smoking habit by offering flavored cigarettes and advertising them in magazines with heavy adolescent readership like Rolling Stone, Glamour and Elle.
``These are designed to attract younger smokers,'' said Michael Bopp of the American Cancer Society. ``We don't want to see a product introduced that will give back the gains we've made in this state in reducing teenage smoking. From a commonsense perspective, adults are not going to be interested in these products.''
A bill introduced in Congress in March gives the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate tobacco products and would ban the sale of candy flavored cigarettes. It is currently in the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and in the House Subcommittee on Health.
And legislators in New York, Minnesota, West Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina and Texas have proposed bills prohibiting the sale of the flavored cigarettes.
A national survey presented last week by Buffalo's Roswell Park Cancer Institute found that 20 percent of smokers ages 17 to 19 used flavored cigarettes in the past 30 days while just 6 percent of smokers over the age of 25 did, said Dr. Gary Giovino, a senior researcher at the institute.
``Of course they're going after kids, they're going to be the longer-range consumers,'' said Katie Spector, 17, a student at Colonie High School outside Albany who recently quit smoking after about five years.
Separately the study found that 8.6 percent of ninth graders in western New York have tried flavored cigarettes in the past 30 days.
``They are using flavors to sweeten the poison,'' Giovino said.
Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American, formed by last year's merger of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., sells flavored versions of its Kool and Camel brands.
Fred McConnell, a spokesman for the company, said it does not target minors with its marketing. After meeting with Sen. Charles Fuschillo, a sponsor of New York's bill, Reynolds decided to stop advertising cigarettes with candy or fruit names though the products will still be sold, he said.
``We recognize use of certain names on Camel Exotics have resulted in unintended concerns,'' he said.
Currently, the company offers two Camel products _ ``Mandarin Mint'' and ``Dark Mint.'' Those will no longer be advertised in magazines, newspapers or stores, McConnell said.
Nonetheless, McConnell said, the company opposes the legislation to ban flavored cigarettes because it would also ban ``conventional'' cigarettes.
``Ingredients like cocoa, sugar, licorice and menthol have been used in cigarettes for 100 years,'' McConnell said. ``You would ban almost all cigarettes.''
The sponsor of the New York bill that would ban flavored cigarettes said he expects the measure to pass the Assembly.
``If there is an effort to discourage kids from taking up the habit, we need to go after products boutique-designed to target them,'' said Assemblyman Alexander Grannis, D-Manhattan.
The measure is currently in the Senate's Health Committee.
Jamie Drogin, a spokeswoman for Altria, the maker of Marlboro and other cigarettes, said her company does not make any candy or fruit-flavored cigarettes and supports the proposed federal ban on those products.