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Maryland Health Department Launches Campaign Against Teen Cigar Use

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Pat Warren joined the Eyewitness News team in 1992. Pat came to WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Smoke signals. It’s the day of the Great American Smokeout, and the state health department is especially alerting the dangers to young people.  

Pat Warren reports you may have never heard of what they’re smoking now.

Back in the day, the corner store sold sugar sticks marketed as candy cigarettes. Now the shelves are stocked with real tobacco, cigars flavored to taste like candy.

“I be walking with my friends and they like, ‘Hey, you should try this Black and Mild,'” said Caleb Cooper, high school freshman.

There’s a Black and Mild in apple flavor. And if one health gamble isn’t enough, there’s a Black and Mild in wine. Dutch Master markets a Neapolitan pabulum of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Swisher Sweets sells a grape cigarillo. It’s not hard to see who these might appeal to.

“What this adds up to is a real threat,” said Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein.

On Thursday, Mervo High School students heard warnings from Sharfstein. It’s a jumping off point for a statewide campaign.

“Even as cigarettes are coming down, cigar smoking is going up particularly for youth,” Sharfstein said.

Students who tell WJZ they don’t smoke but have friends who do offer advice and understanding.

“They probably think that it relieves the stress they’re going through,” said Rachel, high school freshman.

“Take the time to think about how it’s going to affect your life,” said Kiera Johnson, senior.

“They can go through a lot. They go though  hormones changes, ‘love’ and everything else,” said a student.

“People think it’s really cool, but when diseases come out of it they’ll be really hurt,” Cooper said.

Do they think talking helps?

“No,” replied one student.

“I tell them it’s bad, but they don’t listen,” said another.

“I tried already, and it didn’t work,” said a student.

That’s why the state has set up a hotline, 1-800-QUIT NOW.

“They already know, but you tell em some more,” said Edith Booth, freshman.

“They need to stop cause I don’t want to go to their funeral,” said a student.

 Getting this message across to young people as well as adults is a state health priority.  For more information, click here.

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