Time to ban tobacco products used for drugs

Blunts often emptied and rewrapped with drugs.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of people to find ways to use drugs.

An example of this is the use of “blunts” or “blunt wraps.”  Historically, blunts were a type of cigar with a tapered or pointed tip.  On the street, however, blunts now refer to a cigar in which the tobacco is removed and replaced with another substance, usually marijuana, crack cocaine or PCPs.  It also refers to the tobacco paper (usually produced for roll-your-own cigarettes) that is used for the same illicit purpose.

Tobacco companies have been quick to take advantage of this in ways that makes this practice flourish among young people.  The companies have been manufacturing blunts in the tasty flavors that are the favorites of youth, such as cotton candy, grape and peanut butter.  What a better way to entice young people into using such habit-forming drugs and a lifetime of dependence and dysfunction!  If the flavored smokes are not lit up, they will be emptied of their tobacco and used for drugs.

Several states have already taken action to curb the sales of blunts.  In August this year, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and cigar wraps, except for those flavored with menthol.  The bill was pushed by Illinois State Rep. Kwame Raoul (D-13th) who stated the case perfectly:

“The wide availability of illegal drugs to our children and youth is a scourge afflicting communities throughout the state of Illinois.  It’s vital that our laws keep pace with the many forms of delivery and marketing of drugs to our children.”

In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed legislation that banned the sale of tobacco papers and other drug paraphernalia to minors.  The bill also prohibits sale of blunts, cigarillos and tiparillos to minors.

The District of Columbia has outlawed the sale of tobacco wrapping papers used to roll cigars and blunts.  A tobacco company sued challenging the constitutionality of the law, but the suit was dismissed in court, permitting the law to stay on the books.

We must ask: why doesn’t Wisconsin act to prohibit the use of blunts and tobacco wraps?

It seems to us to be a no-brainer to enact a ban against the sale of products that have little redeeming social value.  You can bet that the tobacco companies will fight against such a law, claiming it violates the principle of having a free market.  They and their surrogates will argue that such laws are a case of the “nanny state” placing another restriction on human behavior.  The fact is that this law would be aimed at curbing a practice that permanently dooms thousands of young people to life of addiction.

The tobacco companies seem to care little about the harm their products can cause; they persist in seeking out new ways to market their products, particularly to young people.  They know full well that if they can get a teenager hooked on smokes, they may have a lifetime customer.  And, if they can’t sell to tobacco products to young people for smoking, they’ll gladly sell them the materials for drug use.

Thus a ban on the sale of these products accomplishes two things: it may curb a young person from developing an addiction to nicotine as well make it more difficult to use drugs.

To be sure, passage of such a law would not end the drug problem plaguing our communities, but it does indeed remove another tempting invitation for our youth.

(By Robert Cherry, coordinator, Milwaukee Tobacco Free Alliance, and prevention services manager, Community Advocates, Inc., a nonprofit advocacy agency based in Milwaukee.) 

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