Harper urges ban on candy-flavoured tobacco targeting youth

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on Wednesday promised tough new measures aimed at discouraging tobacco access and marketing to children.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on Wednesday promised tough new measures aimed at discouraging tobacco access and marketing to children.

Speaking to reporters in Welland, Ont., Harper said one in four young people are smoking, which he blamed partly on targeted marketing by tobacco companies. (Data from Health Canada say that only 15 per cent of youth aged 15 to 19 smoke; the rate for 20-to-24-year-olds is 25 per cent.)

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper holds up packs of flavoured tobacco rolling papers Wednesday in Welland, Ont. Harper promised to crack down on tobacco products marketed to children. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

Harper said his government would ban the use of flavours and additives — like bubble gum and cotton candy flavouring — that heighten tobacco products' appeal to children.

He said he was shocked as a parent to see that flavoured tobacco products were being marketed in such a way that would serve as an incentive for children to smoke.

"These products are packaged as a candy, and this is totally unacceptable," Harper said. "This can't continue."

The Tories would require cigarillos to be marketed in packages of at least 20 so that they are less affordable to children.

Currently cigarillos can be bought in packages as small as four for as little as a toonie.

Harper said the Conservatives would also prohibit tobacco advertising on internet sites and in publications that appeal to youth.

He said the measures would not inhibit the freedom of adults to choose tobacco products.