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Teens, health minister condemn flavoured tobacco
May 31, 2013  |   
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Teens, health minister condemn flavoured tobacco

‘Fifty-year-old men are not smoking tutti-frutti cigarillos’

London Community News

Health units across southwestern Ontario are taking aim at “cigarettes with training wheels.”

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews was at the scene of a colourful display at Covent Garden Market for World No Tobacco Day Friday (May 31).

She even did a bit of dancing with about three dozen youth volunteers clad in morph suits and representing nine health units between London and Windsor.

Hosted by the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU), the event featured dancing and a mass sing-along to a pop song re-written to condemn tobacco products.

When the teens were done performing outside the main entrance to the market, they marched around the block and spread out to collect signatures for a petition calling on a federal ban on the use of youth-friendly flavours in tobacco products.

According to Jeff Moco, a youth engagement coordinator with the Chatham-Kent Health Unit, tobacco cigarillos and other flavoured products have exploded in popularity across Canada since their introduction in 2005.

That year, about 50,000 flavoured tobacco cigarillos were sold nationwide. By 2007, that figure was in the millions.

They lead to addiction faster than conventional cigarettes because they offer a smoother first smoking experience and contain more nicotine.

Moco said more than two-thirds of people who try a flavoured tobacco product just twice or three times, usually in a social context, become addicted. By comparison, it takes about a half-dozen regular cigarettes to become addicted.

He added it’s obvious they are targeted at youth.

“Anyone over 21 doesn’t know what these are,” he said. “Fifty-year-old men are not smoking tutti-frutti cigarillos. It really makes that harshness of smoking the first time much less severe, so you don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. The packaging actually looks like a food product.”

According to Matthews, those products are “are clearly designed to hook people on tobacco” and despite the number of Ontarians smoking having dropped from 25 percent to under 20 percent in recent years, there are still young people taking up the dangerous habit.

She said three-quarters of “social smokers” become full-time smokers.

“Don’t pretend you don’t smoke if you just smoke on weekends,” she said. “We’re really doing everything we can to support people if they’re ready to quit and to prevent people from getting hooked in the first place.”

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Every 7 minutes in Canada, someone dies from heart disease or stroke. Smoking is responsible for 14.54% of all heart disease and stroke deaths.
(Statistics Canada, 2005)
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