Tuesday, 26 February 2013 05:53
Almost two-thirds of Alberta youth tobacco users are using flavoured products: New survey
Edmonton - Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Alberta youth tobacco users are using flavoured tobacco products, a national survey of 50,000 Canadian youth has revealed. The products include menthol cigarettes, flavoured cigars and cigarillos, flavoured smokeless tobacco and flavoured water pipe tobacco. The Youth Smoking Survey was conducted in the 2010/2011 school year among students in grades 6 to 12 across Canada by Health Canada. The Alberta sample represents 4,500 youth from 35 schools from across the province.
"These alarming results demand immediate government action and they justify a complete ban on flavoured tobacco products" said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking & Health (ASH). "Tobacco companies are deliberately targeting youth with candy-flavoured starter products. This atrocious practice must be stopped. Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco industry products and we need strong legislation to keep kids tobacco-free for life."
Health groups are urging the Alberta government to follow through on its commitment to ban flavoured tobacco products and to crack down on tobacco sales to minors. Last November, Health Minister Fred Horne and Associate Minister for Wellness Dave Rodney announced that the government would bring forward this legislation in the 2013 spring session which begins next week.
"We urge the Alberta government to act swiftly and decisively and to stop this deplorable marketing strategy at once" said Angeline Webb of the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division. "Tobacco companies have flooded the market with flavoured products that appeal to youth. We simply cannot stand by and allow thousands of adolescents to fall prey to this unacceptable marketing scheme. I can't think of a more fundamental role for government than to protect youth from serious health hazards like tobacco and those who supply these products."
The Alberta government has failed to meet its youth tobacco reduction target for the past several years. Thirteen (13) percent of Alberta youth aged 12 to 19 years were regular smokers in 2010 and the provincial target was 10 percent.
"I witness the serious problem of youth tobacco use every day at my school and in my community" said Jianna Marin, a high school student and youth leader from Lloydminster. "The tobacco industry needs kids to replace people who lost their lives to tobacco – they need us to make money. Alberta kids must not be a target of Big Tobacco."
About 50,000 Alberta youth are current smokers and together they smoke over half a million cigarettes every day. Over 80 percent of smokers begin smoking before reaching the age of 18 and the majority wish they never started.
"Tobacco use damages nearly every organ of the body," said Dr. Steve Chambers of the Alberta Medical Association. "It is the source of chronic and serious illness among children and adults and for every premature death caused each year by smoking, there are at least 20 smokers living with a serious smoking-related illness."
"The time to act is now. We cannot allow tobacco companies to continue to target kids with candy flavourings and allow easy access to tobacco products" said Dianne Dyer, President of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta. "We need comprehensive action that includes strong legislation in order to produce meaningful results. A piece meal approach will not be effective. Our political leaders need to protect Alberta youth from these deadly products."
The proposed legislation will also prevent tobacco sales to minors. Recent compliance tests revealed that two-thirds of retailers across Alberta were willing to sell cigarettes to 16 and 17 year old test shoppers—even after the youths produced valid and accurate photo identification. Alberta is the only province without legislation to curb tobacco sales to minors.
"Alberta has fallen behind other provinces in protecting youth from tobacco and that is why we have higher rates of youth smoking" said Leigh Allard, president of The Lung Association of Alberta and NWT. "We urge all Albertans to connect with their MLAs and demand government action to reduce youth smoking. Make your voice heard and urge the government to act quickly to stop tobacco marketing to kids. You can join our campaign by visiting smokefreealberta.com."
Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death in Alberta resulting in 3,000 deaths annually. Tobacco has no safe level of consumption, it is highly addictive and it is the only legal product that kills one-half of its long term users when used as directed by its manufacturers. The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations who are working together to prevent and reduce tobacco use.