Close flavoured tobacco loophole: NDP

NDP health critic Megan Leslie wants to tighten rules around flavoured tobacco products, including little cigars and chewing tobacco thought to be popular with young smokers.

Private member's bill would tighten rules

It's time to close loopholes that let tobacco companies keep marketing flavoured products to kids, NDP health critic Megan Leslie said Tuesday.

Leslie introduced a private member's bill, C-631, to tighten the rules around the sale of flavoured little cigars.

The Conservative government tried to ban the sale of flavoured small cigars, which are thought by some to target teens, but the tobacco industry changed the size of the products slightly and removed the filters to comply with the new law.

Bill C-32 passed in October, 2009, and the law came into force last July.

"Despite the ban, you can still find flavoured cigarillos on store shelves today," Leslie said.

"Health experts agree that flavoured tobacco [products] are consumed by young Canadians as a stepping stone to consuming non-flavoured tobacco products ... these things target young people," she said.

Leslie pointed to the campaign slogan for the "Flavour…GONE" advocacy group: cancer shouldn't come in candy flavours.

"It's marketing to kids," she said.

Luc Martial, a spokesman for Casa Cubana, which distributes flavoured cigars, said most users of flavoured tobacco are legal smoking age, adding that the government's own numbers show fewer teens are using flavoured tobacco.

"C-32 without question is legislation that was based on an outright lie. Everything that was said about the flavoured little cigars, everything that was said about the industry was not based on fact at all."

Banning the flavours doesn't do anything to enforce laws against selling tobacco products to teens, Martial adds.

"The government's own data clearly showed the kids, unfortunately, were getting far greater illegal access in much greater quantities to non-flavoured cigarettes," he said.

"(But) truth doesn't matter in tobacco."

Martial says he fears the government will pick up the private members bill and push its own legislation, which is more likely to become law. He says several lawyers have approached Casa Cubana about going to court over the issue but they have so far passed on the offers.