Health Groups Applaud Private Member's Bill to Protect Youth from Harmful & Addictive Novelty Tobacco Products.
Ottawa - March 26, 2009: Canada's leading health agencies today welcomed the re-introduction of legislation to crack down on the marketing of novelty tobacco products designed to attract young smokers.
"We are very grateful to Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis for proposing legislation to strengthen Canada's tobacco laws and to protect young Canadians from new and dangerous novelty tobacco products,"said Manuel Arango, the Chair of the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco."We hope that all parliamentarians will work together to support speedy passage of this law." The NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North today re-introduced a private members bill to amend the federal Tobacco Act and curb the marketing of cigarillos and other flavoured tobacco products.
Ms. Wasylycia-Leis's proposed legislation closes these loopholes by: requiring that cigarillos be sold in the same size packages as cigarettes, requiring cigarillos to carry the same type of health warnings as cigarettes, banning the use of candy, liquor and other flavourings in tobacco products and banning the sale of ˜blunts', another novelty tobacco product.
This bill is consistent with an announcement made by the government during the recent federal election campaign to establish a minimum package size for cigarillos, to prohibit flavor and additives that would appeal to children and to ban all tobacco advertising and promotion in print and electronic media which may be viewed and read by youth."The federal government has yet to take action on this election campaign commitment “ although we are hopeful that this will change soon.
In recent years, candy-flavoured cigarillos and other novelty tobacco products have become a significant threat to Canadian youth. Health Canada data shows that sales of cigarillos have grown dramatically from 53 million in 2001 to 403 million in 2007 (based on Health Canada's definition of cigarillos).
A recent federal government survey of smoking behavior showed that Canadian teenagers are even more likely to try smoking cigarillos than they are to experiment with cigarettes, and that many teenagers who resist smoking cigarettes are drawn into cigarillo use. In terms of addiction and other health effects, these products are as dangerous as cigarettes; because they are especially attractive to young Canadians, they have the added risk of being ˜starter' products for people who might otherwise never become smokers.
The groups point to weaknesses in current tobacco laws as a cause of this growing problem. Canadian law distinguishes between tobacco products which are wrapped in paper made from tobacco leaves (cigarillos) and those which are wrapped in paper made from trees (cigarettes). Unlike cigarettes, which cannot be sold in packages with fewer than 20 units, cigarillos can be sold individually and without health warning messages, and are not included in many other tobacco control measures.
"Loopholes in the current law have allowed tobacco companies to mask a deadly and addictive product in candy flavouring, to package it in bright colours, to price it like a candy bar and to induce one-third of Canadian teenagers to give it a try. " said Dr. Robert Ouellet, President of the Canadian Medical Association. "The legislation introduced today would put a stop to this irresponsible commercial activity by banning flavoured tobacco products such as cigarillos."
"There has been an alarming increase in the use of cigarillos - a problem acknowledged by many governments over the past few years," said Robert Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society. "This bill presents the first opportunity to stem the tide in a comprehensive fashion across the country." The Ontario legislature passed a similar private member's bill last December, although the Ontario government has not yet put this law into force.
"This bill would also protect young Canadians by prohibiting the use of flavourings in chewing tobacco", said Cynthia Callard, Executive Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada."The increased marketing of flavoured chew in Northern Ontario and elsewhere has been identified by young Canadians as a priority for legislative action. This bill would address the problems with chew tobacco identified by the youth-led Flavour Gone campaign.
The Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco is a national coalition of health organizations. Members supporting this initiative include: the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Lung Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Public Health Association, Coalition qucoise pour le contrle du tabac, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.