Health Ministry issues strong warning for removal of cigarette candy from shops
By Gary Hatigeva
THE Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) has made a strong call for the removal of the ‘smoke candy’, commonly known as the ‘cigarette candy’ – because it is illegal.
Over the past two weeks, the smoke candy made headlines in the mainstream media and almost all the local online forums where the issue attracted widespread concerns and worries amongst members especially, parents who fear it (candy) has a strong impact on forcing children to smoke at early ages.
In response to revelations on the product, the Ministry of Health is stepping up its enforcement strategies for a major operation to crackdown on those who are promoting and selling the candy cigarettes, while at the same time, ensuring that it is removed from shelves in shops.
Speaking to the local media on this, Director of the Communicable Diseases (NCD) Division within the Ministry, Dr Geoffrey Kenilorea explained that in Solomon Islands the candy cigarette may not be directly banned like it is in other countries but it is banned in terms of certain sections of the Tobacco Control Act 2010 and other related Acts.
He further explained that candies resembling tobacco products or use tobacco brand names or designs are banned under the Tobacco law.
He said this is because they promote and normalise smoking behaviour, which adds to the worries of the many parents who came out firing at the authorities on it.
The NCD Director said the product is just one of the ways that the tobacco industry markets its products and encourages children to become smokers, and together, the country needs to take a strong stand together against such tactics.
“Protecting our children should be everyone’s number one priority. We urge the public to join us and take a stand against tobacco, and against any products that promote smoking,” Kenilorea added.
The cigarette candy is part of the many internationally banned products, and other countries have actually specified the ban of the candy, and the Solomon Islands Laws according to Ministry officials, is in consistence with international laws that regulate such products and the use of tobacco.
Cigarette candies are a candy introduced in the early 20th century made out of chalky sugar, bubblegum or chocolate, wrapped in paper and packaged and branded so as to resemble cigarettes.
Some products contain powdered sugar hidden in the wrapper, allowing the user to blow on the cigarette and produce “smoke” on the other end.
Research showed that cigarette candy’s place on the market has long been controversial because many critics believe the candy desensitises children, leading them to become smokers later in life.
Because of this, the selling of cigarette candy has been banned in several countries, and with mounting pressure for the reduction of smoking, many manufacturers however, now describe their products as candy sticks, bubble gum, or simply candy, and they’re the direct result of tobacco company strategies to hook a new generation.
To boost sales, manufacturers have introduced the cigarette candy and other forms of candies in various flavours and marketed them aggressively.
These sweet flavours lure kids, and it is a worry that the candy could fulfill international studies, which found that four in five kids who ever experimented with tobacco started with a flavoured product.
Additionally, what we are seeing with the likes of this product is a survival marketing strategy, manufacturers or the industry is using, and the obvious target is the new generation.
Kenilorea however warned that importing or selling these smoke candies is a crime and penalties are severe, with a minimum of $20,000 on individuals caught involved in such activities or face imprisonment.
“A company could be fined $500,000, and the government through the responsible authorities will be coming down hard on anyone who wants to break the law,” the NCD Director added.
The fear of encouraging children into accepting the practice of smoking through the candy cigarette, is because smoking related diseases are the main causes of deaths in Solomon Islands, with a record of four in every 10 kids smoke, and the country cannot afford to lose its future and important assets.
Officials then reiterated that shop owners in Honiara and elsewhere in the country, are reminded to stop selling the candy smokes, along with other tobacco themed product, to prevent kids from trying the real stuff one day.
Those who are found or choose to defy the calls, will be dealt with and should expect heavy penalties, which according to Honiara City Council (HCC) officials, the disobedient could also lead to losing of business operational licences.