With two provincial governments announcing plans to ban candy and fruit flavoured tobacco products, health groups are urging the Saskatchewan Minister of Health to do the same.
“We have the highest youth smoking rates 10 years running – double the national average – we need to get rid of these dangerous products and protect kids,” says Keith Karasin, Executive Director for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan.
Yesterday, Ontario’s Minister of Health announced she will introduce legislation to ban all sales of candy-flavoured tobacco products. The Alberta government introduced similar legislation last week. The move comes after data released from the latest Youth Smoking Survey found that more than half of Canadian high school tobacco users had used a flavoured product in the previous 30 days. In Saskatchewan, 54 per cent of youth who use tobacco products reported using flavours.
Fruit and candy flavours mask the harsh flavor of tobacco and make it easier for youth to become addicted. In Canada, many categories of tobacco products are heavily flavoured, including cigarillos (little cigars), water pipe tobacco, smokeless tobacco and menthol cigarettes. Flavours include chocolate, mint, cherry, peach, strawberry, and other fruit and candy flavours that are appealing to youth.
“We know flavoured tobacco products appeal to young people and they lead to addiction. A ban on all flavoured tobacco is important if Saskatchewan wants to protect children from these tobacco industry products,” says Lynn Greaves, President of the Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction.
“Tobacco companies continue to try to attract youth since they lose a large percentage of their customers each year from tobacco-related illness. We urge the provincial government to not let the tobacco industry ‘sweet talk’ our young people by enticing them with flavoured tobacco products. All tobacco products lead to addiction, disease, disability and death,” says Dr. Brian Graham, Chief Executive Officer for The Lung Association of Saskatchewan.
The federal Tobacco Act (through amendments in Bill C-32 that came into force on July 5, 2010) prohibits flavours in cigarettes, cigarillos and blunt wraps, with an exemption for menthol. Cigarillos are defined as cigars weighing 1.4g or less or having a cigarette filter. However, many tobacco companies have avoided this definition by increasing the weight to more than 1.4g, which allows them to continue to add flavours to the product.
“The Youth Smoking Survey found that menthol is the most popular flavour among Saskatchewan youth who use tobacco in our province. “Menthol soothes the throat and reduces the harshness of tobacco smoke for youth who are experimenting”, says Karasin. “Menthol cigarettes make it easier for young people to smoke and get addicted and must be banned.”
This new information about the high popularity for menthol cigarettes among youth contrasts with a low level of popularity among adults, with menthol cigarettes representing only four per cent of all cigarettes sold to adults in Canada.
Menthol was exempted from federal legislation because at the time data were not available about the prevalence of youth smoking of menthol cigarettes.