Trendsettah USA, Inc., a California-based company, is promoting flavored cigars called Hoodwraps to inner-city youth, a practice that has upset members of the community.
Some Hoosiers at a downtown gas station were approached by the Trendsettah street team on Thursday.
It's dirty. I think it's a dirty thing to do," resident Unique Woods said. Why would they be on the streets handing out cigars? I'm very shocked."
6News' Eboné Monet
contacted company representatives about the street campaign.
Trendsettah attorney Tate Hilmoe said members of the street team are trained to check IDs before handing the cigars out to minors.
What the team will do is stop and try to explain the product to the retailer, keep moving, and in some circumstances, they end up with a consumer," Hilmoe said.
Brandon Perry, a copy editor for The Recorder Magazine, works with a coalition to keep minors from lighting up.
Perry said he is concerned that the labels Trendsettah uses to market the cigars -- Da Bomb Blueberry and Swag Berry -- target urban youth.
Are they trying to reach rural America? Are they trying to reach suburbia? I don't think so. They are going after kids, I believe in all races in urban America," Perry said.
The Indiana State Department of Health said urban youth are more likely to begin smoking at an earlier age than the national average.
Trendsettah shareholder Richard Rahib said the cigars branding is an effort to keep up with pop culture.
Swag is the new cool. Paris Hilton says it, and so does Toni Braxton. The bomb means the best -- the best quality, the best flavor," Rahib said.
Perry said he hopes the Hoodwraps campaign goes up in smoke.
Hopefully, when those companies look at their (profits), they'll leave our kids alone," he said.
Trendsettah representatives said the Indianapolis campaign is just the beginning, and their next stops include New York and Florida.
Rahib said the company is helping the community by recruiting inner-city youth for its street teams.
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