Some Illinois lawmakers and government officials are criticizing the distribution of free flavored condoms by the state health department, saying the "exotic" condoms hamper efforts to promote abstinence, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The department has spent about $115,000 in federal funds on the condoms since January and plans to purchase a total of 2.4 million for the year. Most are basic lubricated condoms. But about 360,000 are flavored condoms, in orange, lemon, grape, and cherry flavors. About 910,000 others are red, orange, green, and blue in color. Health department spokesman Tom Schafer says the flavored condoms were purchased because clients at health clinics in the state say they wanted the flavored products to use for oral sex. "The taste of lubricated condoms is such that they wouldn't encourage use," he said. Encouraging condom use for oral sex is important because studies have shown that rising syphilis rates in the state, particularly among gay and bisexual men, have been linked to oral sex and other unprotected sex acts.
But Republican lawmaker Steve Rauschenerger says he is "bothered" by the distribution of flavored or brightly colored condoms. He also said the unique condoms may encourage young people to have sex and undermine efforts in the state to promote abstinence as a way to prevent HIV, STDs, and unwanted pregnancies. "The concept of providing readily available condoms to prevent transmission of disease is one thing," he told the Sun-Times. "But when you're talking about French ticklers and attractive colors, it seems to border on enticement. If we're buying condoms, I'd expect us to buy Army-green, utilitarian, low-priced condoms for people who, for whatever reason, don't feel comfortable buying them on their own." He said he plans to demand that state health department officials show data showing that flavored condoms reduce sexually transmitted disease rates. Other state lawmakers said they were unaware flavored and colored condoms were being distributed by the health department but said they don't object to it if the costs are the same as distributing standard condoms.