Youth smokers attracted to flavoured tobacco products

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New data released on Oct. 7 from the national Youth Smoking Survey shows a very high number of high school students are using flavoured tobacco products.

More than half (54 per cent) of high school students in Saskatchewan who used tobacco products in the previous 30 days had used flavoured tobacco products. Fruit and candy flavours mask the harsh flavour of tobacco and make it easier for youth to become addicted.

“These numbers clearly show that there is an urgent and compelling need for the Saskatchewan government to ban all flavoured tobacco products,” says Keith Karasin, Executive Director for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan. “We need swift action to protect our youth from these products. Given that our youth smoking rates are double the national rate, it is critical the Minister of Health address this issue quickly.”

The Youth Smoking Survey found that among Saskatchewan high school students: 28 per cent smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days; 34 per cent used any tobacco product in the previous 30 days and 18 per cent had used any flavoured tobacco product (including menthol cigarettes) in the previous 30 days.

“These alarming data are a wake-up call that more government action is needed to protect our youth from becoming addicted to tobacco products,” says Steve Manske, Senior Scientist, Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo. “Flavoured tobacco products were used by almost 170,000 Canadian high school students.”

The Youth Smoking Survey also showed that more than a third (36 per cent) of youth smokers smoked menthol cigarettes in the previous 30 days. 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 4 per cent of all cigarettes sold to adults in Canada.

“This survey shows that menthol is the most popular flavour among youth who use tobacco in our province. The tobacco industry tries to ‘sweet talk’ our young people by enticing them with flavoured products in order to gain addicted customers for life,” says Jennifer Miller, Vice-President of Health Promotion for The Lung Association of Saskatchewan. “We urge Minister Duncan to act quickly to ban all flavoured tobacco products, including menthol.

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 exception for menthol. Cigarillos are defined as cigars weighing 1.4 grams or less or having a cigarette filter. However, many tobacco companies have avoided this definition by increasing the weight to more than 1.4 grams, which allows them to continue to add flavours to the product.

“Child-friendly tobacco products are still on the market because tobacco companies found loopholes in federal legislation. What many people don’t realize, however, is that here in Saskatchewan our existing legislation also bans flavoured tobacco. Unfortunately, this part of legislation has not yet been proclaimed,” notes Lorie Langenfurth, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Saskatchewan. “We urge our provincial Health Minister to clear these deadly products from stores and protect our youth.”

The Youth Smoking Survey is conducted every two years. The most recent survey results are from the survey for the 2010-2011 school year, conducted between October 2010 and June 2011 with 50,949 students participating across Canada. The analysis of the Youth Smoking Survey data on flavoured tobacco released today was prepared by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, University of Waterloo. To read the full report visit https://uwaterloo.ca/propel/news.

Organizations: Canadian Cancer Society, The Lung Association of Saskatchewan, Heart and Stroke Foundation

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Canada

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