Half of the teenagers who smoked in the past month used a flavoured tobacco product, according to a survey on youth smoking habits in Canada.
The survey, done by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo, on behalf of Health Canada, discovered that 50 per cent of high school students who had used tobacco within the past 30 days used flavoured products.
That equates to half of the high school students (15 and over) who used tobacco products in the month before the survey was taken, or 137,000 students, the report noted.
Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer Society said the latest statistics should be a call for new legislation to “ban all flavoured tobacco products.”
“Flavoured tobacco is a major threat to young people’s health,” said Cunningham in a statement.
The current federal Tobacco Act forbids flavours, with the exception of menthol, in cigarettes, cigarillos and blunt wraps. But because cigarillos are defined as cigars weighing 1.4 grams or less, manufacturers have simply made them heavier and infused flavours.
Other tobacco products with flavour include water pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff. Flavours range from chocolate to mint to strawberry.
There are no other bans on flavoured tobacco products in Canada.
Alberta adopted legislation in December 2013, but it is still awaiting proclamation. Meanwhile, Ontario and Manitoba are in the process of introducing legislation and Quebec and Nova Scotia have said they plan on doing the same.
The survey, conducted from November 2012 to June 2013, found that three out of 10 students who smoked flavoured tobacco products had smoked menthol cigarettes.
“Menthol reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke … and makes it easier for them to smoke and get addicted,” said Cunningham, who also favours a ban on menthol-flavoured products.
The highest use of menthol cigarettes and flavoured products was among Quebec teens — 58 per cent compared to the national average of 49 per cent.