Youth continue to use flavoured tobacco products at high levels

10 September 2014

Toronto -

Data released today based on the 2012/13 Youth Smoking Survey shows that young people are continuing to use flavoured tobacco products at high levels. Results show that 50% of high school students in Canada who used tobacco products in the previous 30 days used flavoured tobacco products.

"Today’s survey proves that flavoured tobacco is a major threat to young people’s health,” says Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society.  "Flavoured tobacco products were used by 137,000 high school students in Canada, which is troubling. The Society is very concerned that fruit-and-candy-flavoured tobacco make it easier for youth to become addicted to tobacco. New legislation is needed as soon as possible to ban all flavoured 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 1.4 grams), water pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff and menthol cigarettes. Flavours include chocolate, mint, cherry, peach, strawberry and other fruit and candy flavours that are appealing to youth.

“These continuing alarming data are a powerful 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.

A growing number of provinces are taking action on flavoured tobacco products, but currently there is no provincial legislation in force banning flavoured tobacco. Alberta adopted legislation in December 2013 that would ban flavoured tobacco (including menthol), but it is awaiting proclamation. Ontario and Manitoba are bringing forward legislation. Other provinces, including Quebec and Nova Scotia, have stated they are considering banning flavoured tobacco.

The 2012/13 Youth Smoking Survey showed that 29% of youth smokers had smoked menthol cigarettes in the previous 30 days, totalling 50,900 students. 

"Menthol reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke for youth and makes it easier for them to smoke and get addicted,” says Cunningham. "Menthol is the most popular flavour among youth. It is essential that a ban on menthol cigarettes be included as part of any ban on flavoured tobacco."

Results of the 2012/13 Youth Smoking Survey found that among Canadian high school students:

  • 12% had smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days (174,500 students
  • 18% had used a tobacco product in the previous 30 days (274,100 students)
  • 9% had used a flavoured tobacco product (including menthol cigarettes) in the previous 30 days (137,000 students)

The Youth Smoking Survey is conducted every 2 years on behalf of Health Canada by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact. The most recent survey results are from the survey conducted between November 2012 and June 2013 with 47,203 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. Read the full report: Flavoured Tobacco Use Among Canadian Youth: Evidence from Canada’s 2012/13 Youth Smoking Survey.

Images available for media: sample packages of flavoured tobacco products.

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. Building on our progress, we are working with Canadians to change cancer forever. For more information visit or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Rob Cunningham

Senior Policy Analyst

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: (613) 565-2522 ext 4981