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Comissioners Attempt To Ban Flavored Tobacco

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The future of flavored tobacco products being sold in Miami-Dade County may not be so sweet.

On Tuesday the Miami-Dade commissioners will take a preliminary vote on a measure which would make it illegal to sell flavored chewing tobacco and cigars like blueberry, peach, grape, strawberry and others. The move is an effort to discourage high-school kids from purchasing the flavored chewing tobacco and cigars. Mint, menthol and wintergreen flavors would be exempt.

Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Sally Heyman have sponsored an ordinance which would impose a $500 fine for selling the products that they feel are growing popular in high school kids, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.

The county ordinance notes that flavored tobacco is a "starter" product favored by teens. Studies have found that 90 percent of smokers begin in their teens.

"The kids can be in the classroom chewing tobacco and the teachers won't know anything — it looks just like candy," said William Sanchez, a longtime Hialeah parks employee who also works with the county on a tobacco-free youth effort, told the paper. "It's growing in popularity and it's easy to carry."

In 2009, the federal government banned the sale of candy-flavored cigarettes. This led some retailers to simply sell more flavored chewable tobacco and flavored cigars.

Many smoke shop owners are annoyed and angry of the pending plan. Waldo Laurencio's Magic City Cigar shop has been at 89 NW First St., adjacent to the county's civil courthouse, for almost a decade. Laurencio sells everything from fined hand rolled stogies to Swisher Sweets which come in a variety of flavors including strawberry and grape.

"It's my No. 1 seller of all flavors, and it has nothing to do with kids," Laurencio told the paper. "It moves really well. Why don't we make it illegal to elect idiots? Kids drink alcohol, too."

The ordinance has caught the attention of Jacksonville-based Swisher International, which plans to lobby commissioners against a ban before a second and final vote on the issue. No date for that vote has been set.

CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.


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