Message to retailers: Don't sell loose cigarettes.
That's what a coalition of state agencies is telling retailers.
Health officials are concerned that the availability of "loosies," individual cigarette removed from the pack, may attract young people as an easy, affordable way to begin smoking.
Single cigarette sales pose a health threat to young people because they are usually easier and cheaper for them to purchase than a full package of cigarettes.
An individual can buy a single cigarette for about 25 cents, compared with a pack of cigarettes, which can cost more than $5 per pack.
The state Attorney General's Office recently sent 23 tobacco retailers alleged to have sold single cigarettes a warning letter, advising them to stop.
The letters were based on complaints received by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Tobacco retailers may be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 per violation under the law for selling single cigarettes.
Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens encourages any individual who is aware of a retailer selling single cigarettes to call the Agriculture Department’s Complaint Hotline at 1-800-628-2631 and to report the illegal activity.
Data from Tobacco Free Kids reveal that 8,100 new Tennesseans under the age of 18 become smokers each year. Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan Cooper noted, “Research has revealed that the younger an individual starts smoking, the stronger their addiction. So, we think it is of vital importance that retailers not sell single cigarettes, as these can lead to a lifetime of smoking addiction.”