I can't wait to see what happens when they make tobacco illegal...
BALTIMORE, Oct. 15 — Outside subways stops and bars in parts of this blighted city, slouching hustlers mutter “loosies, loosies” to passers-by, offering quick transactions, 50 cents a stick or three for a dollar.
Their illegal, if rarely prosecuted vocation: selling loose Newport cigarettes to those who do not have $4.50 to buy a pack.
In small corner markets, customers sometimes use code words like “bubble gum” or “napkins” to receive individual cigarettes wrapped in a napkin. Or they buy a flavored Black and Mild, the latest smoking craze here, from an opened five-pack.
Out-of-package sales are common in the poor areas of many cities, an adaptation to meager, erratic incomes and rising cigarette taxes. But researchers say they are just one facet of a high smoking rate among low-income urban blacks.
Even as antismoking campaigns have sharply reduced tobacco use in society at large, smoking has remained far more common among the poor of all races.
Still, officials here said they were surprised when a recent study suggested that more than half of poor, black young adults smoke cigarettes — almost always menthol, almost always Newports.
In the latest twist, the study also found that nearly one in four of them also smoke candy-flavored cigarillos, often inhaling despite the danger posed by higher tar and nicotine levels.
Alarmed by the findings, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, on Monday convened health experts, community leaders and high school students to discuss the spreading use of Black and Milds, plastic-tipped cigarillos that come in flavors like wine, cream and apple and are often seen in hip-hop videos and the HBO series “The Wire,” which is set in Baltimore.
Jamila Wilson, 17, said at the meeting that she had started smoking Black and Milds at 15 and now smoked several a day, inhaling.
“If you smoke the wine flavor, it gives you a buzz, ” Jamila said, adding that if she goes too long without, “I get light-headed.”
Amid violence and drug problems, smoking may seem a comparatively harmless vice. “But if you take a step back,” Dr. Sharfstein said, “it’s the smoking that will end up killing a lot of these kids, maybe not next week but well ahead of their time.”