REGINA - Health groups are asking the Hon. Dustin Duncan, our provincial health minister, to justify his position to block a federal ban on menthol tobacco. Yesterday, the federal Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose said the reason her government has not moved forward with a ban on menthol is because the Saskatchewan government opposed it. “Saskatchewan has had the highest youth smoking rates for more than a decade. We want to know why Minister Duncan would block a federal law to protect kids. Saskatchewan residents deserve an answer,” says Natalie Gierman, Director Government Relations and Health Promotion, Heart and Stroke Foundation.
For several years Saskatchewan health groups and health care providers have been providing evidence to the provincial government urging them to address our high youth smoking rates by banning flavoured tobacco products including menthol. “We just met with the government and opposition about this issue in April. To hear that Saskatchewan won’t ban these products, and then would stand in the way of the federal government doing so, is irresponsible,” says Jennifer Miller, Vice-President of Health Promotion with The Lung Association of Saskatchewan.
In a response to media inquiries yesterday, the Saskatchewan government said it will continue to make concrete strides to curb youth tobacco consumption. “Just to be clear, the provincial government spends virtually nothing on tobacco control. It has been more than 5 years since we’ve seen a new tobacco control policy. It seems everything health groups recommend, this government rejects. What are these concrete actions? When will we see them?” says Donna Pasiechnik, Manager Tobacco Control for the Canadian Cancer Society.
The 2011-12 Youth Smoking Survey found that more than half of teenagers who smoke use flavoured products and the flavour of choice is menthol. Menthol tobacco is a starter product that increases nicotine addiction among youth. Tobacco companies add flavours including menthol to make tobacco taste better. Also,
- Menthol soothes the throat and makes it easier for kids to experiment and get addicted.
- Youth who smoke menthol smoke 60 percent more cigarettes than youth who do not smoke menthols.
- One third of youth smokers are using menthol cigarettes compared with only 1 in 20 adults.
- Six provinces have brought forward legislation to ban flavours including menthol (AB, ON, NS, NB, Quebec, PEI)
Tobacco is the biggest preventable risk factor for heart and stroke disease, lung disease and cancer. “Why is it so difficult for this government to connect the dots and how, in good conscience, could they oppose a federal law that will reduce smoking rates and future cancers. Who are they listening to?” asks Donna Pasiechnik, Manager Tobacco Control for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan.
A simple regulation could ban these products in Saskatchewan.
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Melody Lynch, Heart and Stroke Foundation
Jennifer Miller, The Lung Association of Saskatchewan
Donna Pasiechnik, Canadian Cancer Society