Canadian Cancer Society criticizes new menthol “capsule” cigarettes as latest gimmick attractive to kids

19 November 2015

Toronto -

The Canadian Cancer Society is fuming about a new tobacco industry gimmick that they say is attractive to new young smokers. Cigarettes with squeezable menthol capsules in the filter are now available in many Canadian stores. When the filter is squeezed, the capsule is crushed, releasing a burst of menthol flavour to make the smoking experience less harsh.

“The tobacco industry has a bottomless pit of creativity when it comes to new ways to market its deadly products,” says Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society. “This is just their latest trick, a trick that risks addicting more youth before legislated bans on menthol come into effect. From a public health perspective there is absolutely no justification for adding flavours to cancer-causing products.”

At a time when many provinces are moving to ban menthol cigarettes, the new menthol capsule cigarette is going against the tide.   

“This is clearly a last-ditch attempt to sell more menthol cigarettes before menthol is banned altogether,” says Cunningham. “In order to protect kids, it is essential that legislation prohibiting menthol come into force as soon as possible.”

The national Youth Smoking Survey for 2012–13 found that, of high school students who smoke, 29% smoke menthol. Menthol soothes the harshness of tobacco smoke, making it easier for youth to experiment, become addicted and put themselves at risk for a variety of health issues. It is for these reasons that many provinces have adopted laws to ban menthol cigarettes.

“That a tobacco company is able to even start selling these menthol capsule cigarettes demonstrates that federal tobacco legislation is woefully out of date and needs to be modernized,” says Cunningham. “The new federal government must move quickly to revamp the national Tobacco Act, adopted almost 2 decades ago in 1997.” During the federal election campaign, the Liberal Party committed to strengthen Health Canada’s federal tobacco control strategy and legislation, including implementation of plain packaging. The strategy expires on March 31, 2017.

Menthol capsule cigarette brands launched by Rothmans, Benson and Hedges include Canadian Classics Crush, Next Snap, Belmont Hybrid, and Benson & Hedges Unison. In Quebec, the brands known to be available are Next Klik, Belmont Hybrid and Benson & Hedges Unison. Images of these new cigarette brands can be seen here

These types of cigarettes have been marketed globally for years, but until now have never been sold in Canada. On September 15, 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered Camel Crush menthol capsule cigarettes off the market. In the 28-country European Union, a ban on menthol capsules will come into force on May 20, 2016.

Five provinces to date have brought forward legislation to ban menthol cigarettes: Nova Scotia (effective May 31, 2015), Alberta (effective September 30, 2015), New Brunswick (effective January 1, 2016), Ontario (Bill 45 awaiting proclamation date) and Quebec (Bill 44, before National Assembly, expected implementation date in September 2016). PEI is currently developing regulations.

The new menthol capsule cigarettes have not been found for sale in Alberta or Nova Scotia, where the legislated menthol bans are already in force.

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. For more information, visit cancer.ca 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