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Thursday, 31 May 2012 05:11

Youth smoking survey reveals high rates of flavoured tobacco use in Alberta

Health groups call for a provincial ban on flavoured tobacco products
World No-Tobacco Day, Thursday, May 31, 2012

EDMONTON - A recent survey of 3,489 Alberta junior high school students conducted by The Lung Association of Alberta and NWT revealed that about one in every six students surveyed (16 percent) is using flavoured tobacco products.  Of those who are using flavoured tobacco products, 40 percent are using flavoured cigars or cigarillos, 27 percent are using menthol cigarettes, 20 percent are using flavoured smokeless tobacco and 13 percent are using flavoured tobacco in a water pipe. 

“We cannot allow tobacco companies to target Alberta youth with candy flavourings,” said Leigh Allard, President and CEO of the Lung Association of Alberta and NWT.  “Cancer, heart disease and lung disease should not be candy flavoured and we are urging the Alberta government to put a stop to this deplorable marketing practice as soon as possible.  How can we allow this outrageous activity to continue if we are truly concerned about the health and well-being of our young people?” 

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta (CSFA) is urging the Alberta government to tackle youth smoking on several fronts; a ban on tobacco flavourings, restrictions on sales to minors, a tobacco tax increase to reduce youth affordability and increased funding for effective prevention programs.  Last summer, the coalition obtained commitments for these measures from several provincial party leaders including Premier Alison Redford.  Yesterday, Health Minister Fred Horne confirmed that the Alberta government is looking at a ban on flavoured tobacco products as part of a renewed strategy to reduce tobacco use in Alberta.

“Alberta kids deserve first-class protection from tobacco industry products” said Angeline Webb with the Canadian Cancer Society – Alberta/NWT Division.  “Our adolescent smoking rates are unacceptably high and we are not meeting our youth tobacco reduction targets.  We need to redouble our efforts if we are going to win the battle against tobacco companies and their predatory youth marketing schemes.  We hope that the government will deliver on its promise to ban flavoured tobacco products as soon as possible.”

The Lung Association survey also revealed that most youngsters who are obtaining cigarettes from tobacco retailers are not being asked to provide photo identification.  More than two-thirds (71 percent) of the youth respondents who purchased tobacco reported that they were not asked to produce photo identification.  Compliance checks around the province have revealed that many retailers are still willing to sell tobacco to minors even if test shoppers produce valid photo identification.   CSFA is urging the government to clamp down on tobacco sales to minors with mandatory licensing and staff training.

“It is very discouraging to know that minors can still readily obtain tobacco products from tobacco vendors despite federal legislation banning the practice,” said Les Hagen with Action on Smoking & Health.  “Every province except Alberta has passed stronger legislation to complement the federal law which is very limited in scope.  We would like to see a retail tobacco licensing system that is modelled after Alberta’s liquor retailing system with mandatory licensing, staff training, carding of anyone under age 25, requiring staff to be at least 18 years of age and stiff fines and license suspensions for violations.  As it stands, an untrained 14-year-old can sell tobacco products from an unlicensed location in Alberta.”

The survey was conducted between September 2011 and April 2012 among 3,489 junior high school students in 57 schools and utilized real-time electronic polling technology with field-tested questions from the national Youth Smoking Survey.

Alberta has failed to meet its youth smoking targets for the past several years.  About 50,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 19 are current smokers in Alberta according to the most recent Canadian Community Health Survey conducted in 2010.  Tobacco use results in 3,000 premature deaths annually in Alberta. 


Leigh Allard @ 780-938-5864
Angeline Webb @ 780-239-5295 
Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546 
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