Banning Flavoured Tobacco Products
The use of flavoured tobacco products among Alberta youth is a serious public health problem. Legislation that eliminates the addition of candy and fruit flavourings to all tobacco products will help prevent youth use of tobacco products.
Flavoured tobacco products can act as starter products for kids. The addition of flavours masks the harshness of tobacco which makes the products more palatable for younger users. Flavours also increase the appeal of tobacco products and encourage experimentation among youth.
Alberta needs legislation to eliminate all flavours from tobacco products including menthol. In December 2013, the Alberta Legislative Assembly approved Bill 206 that allows the government to ban all tobacco flavourings. However the bill has not been enacted and some flavoured tobacco products may be exempted.
The Alberta government needs to enact this legislation and ensure that it will ban all flavoured tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.
In recent years, tobacco companies have flooded the market with a wide range of candy and fruit flavoured tobacco products that appeal to youth. In order to deal with the significant increase in youth use of flavoured tobacco products, the federal government amended the federal Tobacco Act in 2009 to ban some flavoured tobacco products. However the legislation does not include all flavoured tobacco products. Flavoured spit tobacco products and menthol cigarettes are currently exempt from the legislation. Further, the tobacco industry found ways to take advantage of loopholes within legislation in order to continue targeting youth with products only slightly altered from those that are now banned.
A recent survey conducted by Health Canada revealed that the scope and scale of flavoured tobacco use among youth is extensive and is a serious problem in Alberta.
The survey reveals that approximately 25,700 Alberta youth are using flavoured tobacco products. On the basis of this new evidence, further restrictions on tobacco flavourings are justified.
Alberta youth deserve first class protection from predatory tobacco product marketing.
Flavoured little cigars and cigarillos
In the last decade, there was an alarming increase in the amount of flavoured tobacco products available on the market. Cigarillo sales skyrocketed from 50,000 sold in 2001 to 80,000,000 sold in 2006. These products are still available on the market and are still being primarily used by youth. Cigarillos can be cheaper to buy than cigarettes and are available in convenience stores at a cost of just over $2.00 for a single flavoured little cigar or cigarillo.
Approximately 16,100 Alberta youth are using flavoured little cigars or cigarillos.
Of all tobacco flavourings, menthol has the most insidious characteristics. Menthol masks the harsh properties of tobacco smoke, facilitates deeper inhalation and enhances nicotine absorption which increases the related health risks.
Menthol cigarettes are a starter product for adolescents. Proportionally, more youth use menthol cigarettes than adults.
New survey data from Health Canada indicates menthol cigarettes are the second most popular flavoured tobacco product among Alberta schoolchildren. Approximately 12,800 Alberta youth are using menthol cigarettes.
Flavoured spit tobacco
Spit tobacco products contain even more nicotine than cigarettes and can cause cancer as well as other serious health conditions. Spit tobacco can serve as a gateway product that contributes to cigarette addiction due to the belief that spit tobacco is safer than cigarettes. Unfortunately, many spit tobacco users in Alberta start around age nine or ten and do not understand the spit tobacco will lead to addiction and severe adverse health outcomes.
The majority of spit tobacco products contain flavours that appeal to youth such as cherry, peach, berry, vanilla, mint, wintergreen, citrus, and apple. Internal tobacco industry documents confirm the importance of flavours in making tobacco use more palatable.
Recent Health Canada survey data reveals that 5,400 Alberta youth are using flavoured smokeless tobacco.
Flavoured waterpipe tobacco
Waterpipe or hookah smoking appears be on the rise in Canada, especially among youth. Studies indicate that many waterpipe users incorrectly believe that waterpipe smoking is less harmful and less addictive than cigarette smoking. The vast majority of waterpipe tobacco is flavoured.
Recent Health Canada survey data reveals that 5,600 Alberta youth are using flavoured waterpipe tobacco.
The majority of youth tobacco users in Alberta are using flavoured tobacco products. These products include cigars/cigarillos, flavoured spit tobacco, menthol cigarettes and flavoured waterpipe tobacco. Tobacco companies should not be allowed to target youth with candy flavourings. Alberta youth deserve first class protection from predatory tobacco product marketing.
ASH recommends that the Government of Alberta enact the Tobacco Reduction Amendment Act and prohibit the sale of ALL flavoured tobacco products, including flavoured small cigars and cigarillos, flavoured spit tobacco, menthol cigarettes and flavoured pipe tobacco.