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Flavoured cigarettes enticing students to pick up smoking: survey

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Flavoured tobacco makes smoking more attractive to Manitoba youth, according to results released today from the recent Youth Smoking Survey.

Conducted every two years, the most recent The Youth Smoking Survey showed that nearly half (49 percent) of the high school students in Manitoba who had used tobacco in the previous 30 days had used tobacco products with flavours such as chocolate, mint, cherry, peach, strawberry, and other fruit and candy flavours.

Survey results showed that among Manitoban high school students: 13 percent had smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days, 18 percent used some tobacco product in the previous 30 days and nine percent had used some type of flavoured tobacco product, including menthol cigarettes, in the previous 30 days.

The Canadian Cancer Society released the results of the survey on Monday.

"Child-friendly tobacco products are still on the market because tobacco companies found loopholes in federal legislation," said Erin Crawford, the Canadian Cancer Society's director of Public Affairs, in a press release. "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."

There was a move in 2010 by the federal government to restrict sales of these flavoured tobacco products but a loophole was found in the product sizes.

The federal Tobacco Act prohibits flavours (except menthol) in cigarettes, cigarillos and blunt wraps. The Canadian Cancer Society said tobacco companies have gotten around those restrictions by increasing the weight of cigarillos, defined as little cigars weighing 1.4 grams or less or having a cigarette filter.

Tobacco companies have increased the weight of cigarillos to more than 1.4 grams which allows them to add flavours.

The Canadian Cancer Society said there are many categories of tobacco products in Canada in which flavours are permitted such as cigarillos weighing more than 1.4 g, water pipe tobacco, smokeless tobacco and menthol cigarettes.

"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," said Murray Gibson, executive director of the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance (MANTRA), in a press release.

The Youth Smoking Survey showed that a third -- 34 per cent -- of youth smokers in Manitoba had smoked menthol cigarettes in the previous 30 days. That indicated there is a higher popularity of menthol cigarettes among youth than with adults.

Menthol cigarettes represent only four percent of all cigarettes sold to adults in Canada.

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

The Canadian Cancer Society said in its press release that 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," Crawford said.

The Youth Smoking 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 Canadian Cancer Society said 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.

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Updated on Monday, October 7, 2013 at 6:58 PM CDT: Adds video.

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