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Don’t Burn It campaign

The Don’t Burn It Campaign strives to prevent youth from tobacco initiation and use with cigarette prevention messaging.

Don't Burn It video

See the campaign

What's being done?

The Boston Public Health Commission works with local schools, universities and community-based organizations to help keep Big Tobacco from targeting Boston youth. Tobacco companies are always coming up with new ways to get youth to buy their products. BPHC has teamed up with the Boston 84’s. The 84 is a youth-led movement fighting for a tobacco-free generation in Massachusetts. In Boston, 84’s have worked with the Boston Public Schools to create tobacco-free school environments.

To learn more about The 84 movement, visit here. Funding for this campaign was through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative.​

Why focus on flavor?

You're a big tobacco company and you're losing smokers. Partly because people are getting smart, and partly because cigarettes have gotten too expensive for lots of people. So what do you do?

Create more smokers, of course.

Focus on hooking another generation with tobacco products like small cigars and e-cigarettes. Then make the stuff smell and taste like candy. Then wrap them up so they look nice on the shelf. Make them cheap, and drop a few million into marketing your sweet stash to Black and Latino teens.

Because no one's really going to notice, right?

Wrong.​

To them you’re just money
Make them sweet. Make them cheap. Make them pretty. Then spend millions a year in advertising with hip hop and celebrities.

It’s no secret tobacco companies spend more on advertising in areas with larger African American populations. They’ve been doing it for more than 30 years.

They also know that if they can get you hooked with stuff that looks and tastes like candy, there’s a good chance they’ll have customers for life.

Sneaky Pricing
It's the law that cigarettes have to come in a pack of twenty. That means that with taxes a pack of cigarettes costs $10 or more. However, this law did not apply to small cigars — so stores could sell single cigars and they cost as little as $0.50.

Sweet Tobacco
Cigarettes aren’t the only products that contain tobacco. Cigars, cigarillos, and blunt wraps all contain tobacco. A lot of them come in sweet flavors like menthol, cherry, apple, chocolate and vanilla. These flavors cover up the harsh taste and make them easier to smoke.

Youth Access Regulation

In 2012, the Boston Board of Health amended their Youth Access Regulation to set minimum pricing requirements. Single cigars are required to sell for no less than $2.90, and packages of two or more must sell for no less than $5.80.

Tobacco company papers showed that cigars were meant to replace cigarettes, since they’ve gotten so expensive. Between 1997 and 2007, sales of little cigars increased by 240%.

In 2015, the Boston Board of Health amended their Youth Access Regulation to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine products, excluding menthol products. This Regulation was amended again in 2019 to include menthol tobacco and nicotine products. Currently, the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine products (INCLUDING menthol) is prohibited at all Boston retailers except for 4 Smoking/Hookah Bars.  

Cigar use among high schoolers

Smoking is bad for health.
Cigars may be packaged in brightly colored wrappers and taste like bubble gum, grape or cherry, but they’re still tobacco. Lots of people inhale cigars like cigarettes, which makes the risk of cancer even greater. And cigars often have much higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes, which makes them even more addictive. A recent study shows that smoking can be even more addictive when people start in their teens.

The truth is, people who start smoking in their teens are setting themselves up for a lifetime of health problems.

  • Cigar smokers are 10 times more likely than non-smokers to get cancer of the larynx. They are 4 times more likely to suffer from mouth cancer. The risk is even higher if you inhale
  • The risk of heart disease for cigar smokers is 30% greater compared to non-smokers. That risk doubles if you inhale
  • Inhaling cigar smoke increases the risk of chronic bronchitis and emphysema
  • Bad breath, tooth decay and the inability to compete as strongly in sports are short-term health impacts of smoking
  • Secondhand smoke from cigars contains a lot of the same toxic stuff that’s in cigarette smoke. These are the same chemicals that trigger heart attacks, and contribute to asthma and ear infections
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