The Nova Scotia Canadian Cancer Society is taking a victory lap as the province prepares to usher in the country's first ban on flavoured tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, despite a looming lawsuit.
Beginning Sunday, all flavoured tobacco products will no longer be allowed to be sold in the province.
Imperial Tobacco announced Thursday it will challenge in court Nova Scotia's impending ban. Imperial said the ban is a "knee-jerk" reaction and that menthol-flavoured tobacco isn't popular among young people.
'The little guy can win and we won't back down.' - Barbara Stead-Coyle, Canadian Cancer Society
But Barbara Stead-Coyle, with the cancer society's Nova Scotia division, accuses Imperial of using a legal "scare tactic" to force the province to back off the ban.
"Every time governments bring in progressive legislation against tobacco … big tobacco puffs up its chest and says, 'We're bigger than you are, and we can beat you and this is just the way they play the game,' and we're not going to stand for it," Stead-Coyle says.
"The little guy can win and we won't back down," she said at a news conference, before Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down played over the loud speaker.
"We are shutting down the pipeline of flavoured tobacco into Nova Scotia stores ... I guess that's why we got a little attention from Imperial Tobacco," Health Minister Leo Glavine said.
Other provinces following suit
Imperial, however, argues menthol cigarettes are popular among older adults who will now be driven to contraband tobacco to find products they want.
"It is not often that illegal tobacco dealers get a new business opportunity presented to them on a silver platter," Caroline Ferland, Imperial's vice-president of corporate affairs, said Thursday.
Marika Schenkels, a Grade 9 student at South Colchester Academy, disagrees.
"I thought that was an ignorant comment. It's definitely prominent in my school " she said at the cancer society news conference.
She said she sees more students smoking menthols than regular cigarettes.
"Especially for me as a girl, it was really hard to see my friends who are girls smoking menthols. They're more glamorous and friendly to girls," she said.
Stead-Coyle said Nova Scotia is the first jurisdiction in the world to ban flavoured tobacco including menthol, but other provinces are taking note. Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick are introducing flavoured tobacco bans, and she says, P.E.I. and Alberta have shown interest.