Zephyrhills urges retailers to halt sales of candy-flavored tobacco products to minors

Published Apr. 15, 2015

ZEPHYRHILLS — City Council members unanimously agreed this week to ask local retailers with underage patrons to stop selling and marketing fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products.

A trio of area middle and high school students spoke to the council about the growing popularity of tobacco products such as dissolvable strips, tablets and sticks that come in a variety of flavors, including vanilla, peppermint, orange and strawberry. The youths are members of the local chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco.

While selling tobacco to minors is illegal, the teens say their peers still manage to get the products.

The teens cited statistics showing that 90 percent of current smokers and tobacco users started their use before the age of 18, as well as results of a 2012 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey that say nearly 6 percent of Pasco County high school students used smokeless tobacco in the 30 days preceding the survey; 13.4 percent used cigars, and 19.8 percent tried other forms of tobacco.

Zephyrhills joins Pasco County and the cities of Dade City, New Port Richey, San Antonio and St. Leo in passing the resolution, which is more of a policy statement than anything legally binding, City Attorney Joseph Poblick said.

Still, passing it makes sense, council members agreed.

"Candy-flavored tobacco is aimed at the youth; there's no question about that," said council member Lance Smith.

SWAT aims to have every county and municipal government in the state on board with its anti-tobacco campaign. To date, there are just seven entities left, including Port Richey, the teens said. They'll be visiting those City Council members soon.