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Flavoured tobacco products include menthol cigarettes and mint-, candy-, or fruit-flavoured cigarillos, cigars, shisha, rolling papers, bidis, and smokeless tobacco. Flavoured tobacco products are often packaged in brightly coloured wrappers and are strongly scented (especially fruit-flavoured versions).
Menthol has been the most popular and longest used flavour when it comes to tobacco products. It helps to reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke, making it easier for first-time users to become accustomed to smoking. According to the most recent Canadian student survey, almost half of students who reported smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days reported smoking menthol cigarettes.
In the 1990s, candy-, alcohol-, and fruit-flavoured options became available in cigarettes/cigars, as well as smokeless tobacco products. These products also take some of the harshness out of inhaling the smoke.
The bright colours and sweet flavours of flavoured tobacco products are attractive to young people, and can lead them to smoke regular cigarettes later on. Flavoured tobacco products are often seen as a sort of novelty item or experience, and there is widespread misperception regarding the actual health risks involved in using these products.
Flavoured tobacco use is linked to the same types of health issues as are attributed to regular tobacco use, including various types of cancer, mouth diseases, problems with pregnancy in women, and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Nicotine addiction is also an issue with flavoured tobacco use.
In 2010, Canada’s Bill C-32 (An Act to Amend the Tobacco Act) prohibited the sale of cigarettes, small cigars, or cigarillos of certain sizes that contain specific additives (such as flavouring). Menthol flavouring was exempt from this Act. Many other tobacco products, such as regular cigars, smokeless tobacco, and shisha, were also exempt from the Act. In the fall of 2016 Health Canada announced a proposed Order that would amend the Tobacco Act to ban the use of menthol in cigarettes, blunt wraps and most cigars sold on the Canadian market.
Many provinces (Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) first acted to ban all flavoured tobacco products, including any that contain menthol flavouring. Officials in these provinces are concerned that flavouring added to tobacco encourages young people to try these products and can lead to nicotine addiction.
In 2010/2011, 25% of Canadian high school students surveyed had reported using flavoured tobacco at some point (28% of males and 23% of females). The use of flavoured tobacco was higher among high school students than the use of cigarettes. There is growing concern that the rate of tobacco use among youth has plateaued recently, and that flavoured tobacco products are a large part of the problem.
Sources: Canadian Cancer Society, Banning flavoured tobacco products (http://www.cancer.ca/en/get-involved/take-action/what-we-are-doing/tobacco-control/banning-flavoured-tobacco-products-sk/?region=sk)
Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, Tobacco Use in Canada: Patterns and Trends Special Supplement: Flavoured Tobacco Use (http://www.tobaccoreport.ca/2014/TobaccoUseinCanada_2014_FlavourSupplement.pdf)
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