The Manitoba government is moving to ban the sale of flavoured cigarettes, saying they lure young people into smoking.
"No parent wants their child to smoke and we should do whatever we can to keep them from picking up this dangerous habit in the first place," Healthy Living Minister Sharon Blady, making the announcement Wednesday at West Kildonan Collegiate.
Serena Desousa, a West Kildonan Collegiate student, said she was glad to see flavoured tobacco products banned.
"I think it’s a good idea that we're banning them because it does appeal to kids and it's not like adults are gonna be smoking them," said Desousa, a member of the group Students Working Against Tobacco.
It is estimated tobacco kills about 2,000 Manitobans every year, the government said.
"Cigarettes that taste like strawberry and bubble gum in flashy packaging are attractive to children and encourage them to experiment with tobacco. It's time that we remove these products from the shelves to help our kids avoid tobacco all together," Blady said.
"We will be one of the first in Canada to ban the sales of these products, basically building further on our anti-tobacco record.”
Smoking rates among youth have actually declined in the province, from 29 per cent in 1999 to 13 per cent in 2012, but the government wants to continue that momentum.
Blady hopes the motion passes before the end of the legislature session in June.
Not banned: menthols, flavoured tobacco
Menthol tobacco, flavoured tobacco and flavoured chewing tobacco products are not banned under the current legislation.
The province said loopholes in the federal legislation to do with the size of cigarettes limit their ability to control what kinds and how much tobacco can be banned right now.
But menthol cigarettes are exempt under federal legislation.
"We're aware of the menthol and other issues related to tobacco — this is a specific piece of legislation targeting this loophole,” said Blady. “The door is always open to investigating and monitoring other things."
Cancer society reacts
The Canadian Cancer Society applauded the proposed legislation but said it needs to go further.
“We are pleased to see the province take this initiative,” said Erin Crawford, director of public affairs with the society’s Manitoba division. “By preventing the sale of these flavoured tobacco products, this amendment would be an important step in protecting young Manitobans from being tempted to purchase harmful products marketed as candy-like goods and ultimately help to prevent cancer.”
National Youth Smoking Survey data released in October 2013 showed that 49 per cent of high school students in Manitoba who used tobacco in the previous 30 days had used flavoured tobacco products, according to the cancer society.
Fruit- and candy-flavoured tobacco and the ability to buy inexpensive individual cigarettes (rather than whole packs) have made it easier for youth to become addicted to tobacco, the society stated in a news release.
But it also said it "would like to see the restrictions broadened to more products including menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco which remain popular among young people," noting the smoking survey also showed that 34 per cent of youth smokers in Manitoba had smoked menthol cigarettes in the previous 30 days.
"The high popularity of menthol cigarettes among youth contrasts with a low level of popularity among adults, with menthol cigarettes representing only four per cent of all cigarettes sold to adults in Canada," the society's news release stated.