COLUMN: Fun flavours a smokescreen

Cigarettes and cigarillos that taste like cherry and chocolate are deceiving youth into thinking the products are harmless.

The Youth Smoking Survey, which surveyed students from October 2010 to June 2011, was released earlier this month by the Propel Centre for Population Impact at the University of Waterloo.

The survey finds that 52 per cent of students who had used tobacco products in the 30 days prior to the survey had used flavoured tobacco products. That translates to around 169,300 Grade 9-12 students.  The figure is 30,500 in British Columbia.

While amendments to the Tobacco Act in 2009 prohibited flavoured cigarettes, cigarillos, and the sale of individual small cigars, youth still have access to harmful flavoured products, although in a slightly different form. Flavoured products are still being sold, as some cigarette companies have found ways in which to circumvent the law.

The amendments in 2009, for instance, applied to cigarillos, which weigh less than 1.4 grams, and menthol products are also excluded.

Some cigarette companies have simply increased the weight of their tobacco products and are selling products in a variety of flavours, including candy flavours, cherry, chocolate and many others. These products are also packaged in colourful ways and many do not contain cancer pictures and health warnings, as seen on traditional cigarette packages.

This combination of packaging and flavours entices youth to try these harmful products, and many may become lifelong users.

According to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), “all tobacco products, including flavored tobacco products, are as addictive and carry the same health risks as regular tobacco products.”

Furthermore, the FDA also describes how cigarette smoking can cause a variety of cancers, and heart and lung disease.

While most Canadian youth have learned about the health hazards of smoking in school, it is important for them to realize and not be deceived by some tobacco companies which are simply repackaging and flavouring these dangerous products to target youth. Schools should also take actions to raise awareness about these new forms of flavoured tobacco, and how they have negative health implications.

While the Tobacco Act amendments of 2009 were a step in the right direction, more government action needs to occur so that the purpose and intent of these amendments is actually carried out. While Health Canada does issue warnings and seize products if rules are broken, legislation is needed which will prevent tobacco companies from simply making a few minor changes to their products and escaping consequences by utilizing loopholes for their protection.

The Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, which includes the Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario), Ontario Medical Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, wishes to see a ban on all flavoured tobacco products.

Provincial governments in Quebec and Alberta are considering bans on flavoured products.

Ontario’s health minister is also concerned with the latest data and is considering taking action.

A dialogue on how to best prevent flavoured tobacco products from falling into the hands of youth also needs to occur at the government level in British Columbia. Potential actions to consider may be a full ban on all flavoured products, implementation of explicit and larger health warnings on these products, stronger prevention of the sale of products to underage smokers, increases in the current 1.4-gram weight restrictions, new packaging guidelines, stricter ID checks, and significant increases in the legal smoking age for tobacco products, especially flavoured products.

A concerted and collective effort by both provincial and federal governments to close loopholes and prevent the sale of flavoured products to youth is needed for public health protection.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Human Rights Tribunal denies church’s request to toss out White Rock Pride Society’s complaint

Star of the Sea and White Rock Pride Society to go to Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Surrey RCMP searching for missing 12-year-old boy

Landon Vangeel-Morgan was last seen 9:14 p.m., May 30 near 96 Avenue and 150 Street

COVID-19: Daily update on pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

Provincial Health Officer officially bans overnight kids’ camps this summer

Surrey RCMP look for missing man

Tyler Ridout, 36, last seen near Balsam Crescent and 136th Street

Police watchdog investigating death of man in Delta

Independent Investigations Office asking for witnesses to May 29 incident at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Most Read