The Canadian Cancer Society believes 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 in all tobacco products will help prevent youth tobacco use.
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.
In recent years, tobacco companies have introduced a wide range of candy and fruit flavoured tobacco products that appeal to youth, which has contributed to an increase in the use of flavoured tobacco among youth.In order to deal with this significant increase, the federal government amended the federal Tobacco Act to include a ban on flavour additives in some products; however, the amendment does not address all flavoured tobacco products. Flavoured spit tobacco products and menthol cigarettes are currently exempt from the legislation. The tobacco industry has also found ways to take advantage of loopholes within legislation in order to continue targeting youth with products only slightly altered (by weight) from those that are banned. All these products are still available to Alberta youth.
Alberta youth deserve first class protection from predatory tobacco industry marketing.
Flavoured cigarillos and little cigars
In the last decade, there was an alarming increase in the amount of flavoured tobacco products available on the market. Cigarillo and little cigar sales skyrocketed from 50,000 sold in 2001 to 80 million sold in 2006. These products are still on the market and are used primarily by youth. Cigarillos and little cigars are cheaper to buy than cigarettes, as they are sold in singles, are available in convenience stores, and cost about $2.25 each.
Recent data collected by Health Canada revels that over 60% of youth tobacco users are using flavoured tobacco products, with 49% using cigarillos/little cigars.
Of all tobacco flavourings, menthol is the most dangerous. The addition of menthol to tobacco products masks the harsh properties of tobacco smoke. The effects of menthol, such as numbing and soothing the throat, allows for deeper inhalation and enhances nicotine absorption, thus increasing the related health risks and the possibility of dependence.
Menthol cigarettes are a starter product for youth. The use of menthol cigarettes is higher among new users than adult tobacco users. In fact, Health Canada data indicates that menthol cigarette use among youth tobacco users is only second to cigarillos/little cigars at 36%.
Use of spit tobacco among Alberta youth
Spit tobacco use is higher in the Prairies than in the rest of Canada. The use of spit tobacco products among Alberta youth is a serious public health problem. Alberta youth have high spit tobacco use rates – 17 per cent of Alberta males ages 15 to 19 use spit tobacco, which is almost double the overall national average of nine percent.
The problem will continue to grow as Alberta is home to 39 per cent of the spit tobacco market in Canada.
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, most spit tobacco users in Alberta start around age nine or ten and do not understand that spit tobacco will lead to addiction and severe health problems.
The majority of spit tobacco products contain flavours that appeal to youth, such as cherry, peach, berry, vanilla, mint, wintergreen, citrus, apple, and other candy and fruit flavourings.
Tobacco industry tactics that target Alberta youth
A pivotal component of the tobacco industry’s success is product and marketing innovation. Internal tobacco industry documents confirm the importance of flavours in making tobacco use more palatable.
For example, in 2006, National Smokeless Tobacco Company announced that seven of the top ten best selling spit products were flavoured and boasted that their business had grown due to the introduction of new flavours. Spit tobacco has gone from a product once used predominantly by older men to one used mostly by boys and young men. This trend has occurred as spit tobacco promotions have increased dramatically and a new generation of flavoured spit, chew and snuff has entered the market.
The use of flavoured tobacco products among Alberta youth is a serious public health problem. More than 60% of youth tobacco users are using flavoured tobacco products. Tobacco companies should not be allowed to target youth with candy flavourings. Alberta youth deserve first class protection from predatory tobacco product marketing.
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that the Government of Alberta amend the Tobacco Reduction Act to prohibit the sale of all flavoured tobacco products, including flavoured spit tobacco, flavoured little cigars/cigarillos, menthol cigarettes and flavoured waterpipe tobacco.
Alberta’s children deserve first class protection from predatory tobacco product marketing – help keep Alberta’s kids tobacco-free for life; contact your MLA by calling 310-0000 or by visiting www.assembly.ab.ca.