Ontario needs another ban on candy-flavoured tobacco products after the industry found a loophole in a 2010 law before it even went into effect, New Democrat health critic France Gelinas said Tuesday.
A private member's bill introduced by Gelinas banning candy- and fruit-flavoured cigarillos became law, but it specified they had a filter and a certain amount of tobacco. So companies removed the filters and added even more tobacco to skirt the law, said Gelinas.
"It's hard to see a difference, but in the eyes of the law there is a difference: one is illegal and the other for a $1.25 you can buy anywhere in Ontario," Gelinas said as she announced new legislation with a much broader ban on candy- and fruit-flavoured tobacco.
"I feel like I got taken by the tobacco industry. They were many steps ahead of me, so this bill is simple but broad reaching: no more flavour, no more new products."
Anti-tobacco activists say the industry is not only using cigarettes with flavours like chocolate and cherry to attract young people, it has also introduced new tobacco-flavoured products in the United States such as lozenges, twist-sticks and disolvable strips.
"These products -- either a lozenge, a twisted stick the size of a toothpick or a film strip for the tongue -- are made from finely ground flavoured tobacco," said Rowena Pinto of the Canadian Cancer Society.
"They melt in the mouth like candy, within three to 30 minutes."
Pinto warned the candy-flavoured lozenges can contain up to three times as much nicotine as a regular cigarette that is smoked.
Health Minister Deb Matthews was non-committal about adopting Gelinas' new bill, which the Liberals did with the NDP's last attempt to ban candy-flavoured tobacco, but said the Liberal government is committed to reducing smoking.
"We have an open mind on this," Matthews told reporters.
"We'll look at this and make a determination, but part of our action plan is to continue to reduce smoking rates."
The Heart and Stroke Foundation supported Gelinas' new bill, saying all the new tobacco products must be banned from Ontario to protect young people from becoming the next generation of smokers.
"We face a very wily opponent in the tobacco industry," said foundation spokesman Mark Holland.
"They're targeting youth with flavours like "grapes gone wild," or "appletini," or "cherry vanilla," and as parents we have to be very concerned with the ability of the industry to adapt and change and work around legislation."
The candy-flavoured smokes smell good and are packaged to look like candy to appeal to youth and to fool adults, said the Cancer Society.
"There is significant resemblance between these flavoured products and the products young people use every day, like lip gloss and highlighters," said Pinto.
"The packaging makes these products not only more attractive to youth, but harder to detect by parents."
Phil Jansen, a student representative who worked with Gelinas on the original ban on flavoured tobacco products, said friends who consider themselves non-smokers will pick up the flavoured cigarillos at a party without even thinking about it.
"They're definitely popular because of the flavours they have in them," said Jansen.
"So I remind them, these products are just as harmful as cigarettes and they're just as addictive."
Gelinas said the producers of the candy-flavoured tobacco products say she's missing the boat and should be targeting illegal tobacco.
However, other companies like Imperial Tobacco actually support her legislation because they don't make candy-flavoured cigarillos, and fear those products are cutting into their market share.
"You make interesting friends in that business," she joked.