Federal legislation fails to stem teenage use of flavoured tobacco products

07 October 2013

Manitoba -

A three-year old attempt by the federal government to keep flavoured tobacco products out of the hands of young people has failed, new survey data released today shows.

In 2010 the federal government moved to restrict flavoured tobacco products from being sold. However, national Youth Smoking Survey data shows nearly half (49%) of high school students in Manitoba who have used tobacco in the previous 30 days had used flavoured tobacco products. Fruit- and candy-flavoured tobacco makes it easier for youth to become addicted to tobacco.

“Child-friendly tobacco products are still on the market because tobacco companies found loopholes in federal legislation,” says Erin Crawford, Director of Public Affairs, Canadian Cancer Society. “These survey results clearly show there is a compelling need for the Manitoba Government to ban all flavoured tobacco products.  We need action now to protect young people from getting started using tobacco products.”

The federal Tobacco Act prohibits flavours (except menthol) in cigarettes, cigarillos (little cigars) and blunt wraps. However, cigarillos are defined as cigars weighing 1.4 grams or less or having a cigarette filter. 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.  

In Canada, many categories of tobacco products remain heavily flavoured and are not prohibited by federal legislation, including cigarillos (weighing more than 1.4g), 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.

“Alarmingly high rates of flavoured tobacco use by Manitoba youth threaten recent reductions in youth smoking rates.  The tobacco industry has circumvented federal legislation and continues to target youth through the production and marketing of flavoured tobacco. This has to end.” says Murray Gibson, Executive Director of MANTRA.

The Youth Smoking Survey found that among Manitoban high school students: 13% smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days; 18% used any tobacco product in the previous 30 days and 9% had used any flavoured tobacco product (including menthol cigarettes) in the previous 30 days.

The Youth Smoking Survey also showed that a third (34%) of youth smokers in Manitoba had smoked menthol cigarettes in the previous 30 days. This new information about the high popularity of menthol cigarettes among youth contrasts with a low level of popularity among adults, with menthol cigarettes representing only 4% of all cigarettes sold to adults in Canada.

“Menthol soothes the throat and reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke for youth who are experimenting,” says Crawford. “Menthol cigarettes make it easier for young people to smoke and get addicted and must also be banned.”

Menthol was exempted from federal legislation because at the time data were not available about the prevalence of youth smoking menthol cigarettes.

“With this new data clearly showing that many young people are smoking menthol products, the menthol loophole must be closed,” says Crawford. 

The Youth Smoking Survey is conducted every 2 years. The most recent survey results are from the survey conducted between October 2010 and June 2011 with 7,471 students participating across Manitoba and 50,949 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 survey click here.


About the Canadian Cancer Society

For 75 years the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Permanand

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society


Phone: 204-990-4310