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Ban the tobacco industry’s secret weapon

21 January 2013

Edmonton -

The federal government banned flavoured cigarettes two years ago. Not long before that, Barack Obama did the same thing south of the border.

So why is the Canadian Cancer Society still talking about it?

For one thing, loopholes allow the tobacco industry to continue targeting young consumers with an array of other equally dangerous, flavoured tobacco products.

And neither ban restricts menthol.

“The tobacco industry knows what it’s doing, and flavour additives are one of the industry’s secret weapons for snaring new customers – especially the young ones,” says Angeline Webb of the Canadian Cancer Society. “And menthol just happens to be the king of all tobacco flavours – you can’t overstate its insidious role in tobacco addition.”

Start talking about a ban on menthol though and things seem to get complicated.

“The tobacco industry is very protective of menthol,” says Webb. “And why wouldn’t it be? It helps sell a lot of tobacco.”

Menthol masks the harsh flavour of tobacco – that’s no secret. But the evidence that shows just how dangerous the minty flavouring is when used in tobacco products is compelling. Recent research shows that:

  • New smokers who smoke menthol-flavoured cigarettes are more likely to become addicted.
  • Menthol allows deeper inhalation and enhances nicotine absorption.
  • Menthol cigarettes are the second-most popular flavoured tobacco product among Canadian school children (Health Canada).
  • Approximately two-thirds of young tobacco users use flavoured products and
    24 per cent are smoking menthols.
  • Menthol-flavoured tobacco is a “starter product” for adolescents as proportionally more young people smoke menthols than adults.

The Alberta/NWT Division of the Canadian Cancer Society is asking the Alberta government to enact a straightforward ban on flavoured tobacco additives – including menthol.

Although there is a federal ban on flavoured tobacco products, excluding menthol, a comprehensive provincial ban would be more effective and more likely enforced.

Tobacco companies target young smokers with flavoured products because fruit, candy and mint flavours make it easier to push past the unpleasantness of tobacco – making it easier for new smokers to become addicted.

Tobacco Fast Facts

  • According to a 2012 survey of nearly 3,500 junior high students in Alberta, one out of six was using flavoured tobacco products.
  • Approximately 80 per cent of new smokers are under the age of 18.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in Canada. Last year, more than 20,000 Canadians died of lung cancer, one of the most preventable types of cancer.
  • National Non-Smoking Week is January 20-26, 2013. For more information, go to cancer.ca/tobaccofreealberta.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Mike DeRosenroll

Community Engagement Coordinator

Phone: 780-437-8404