February 19, 2008
When it comes to hooking kids, Cigarillos are the new Cigarettes
(Ottawa/Montreal) – Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada said today that lax laws over cigarillos have led to a hidden new problem of youth smoking.
“Our re-analysis of Health Canada data shows that for many adolescents, cigarillos are the new cigarettes and that today’s candy-flavoured cigarillo is a starter product for nicotine addiction,” said PSC President Dr. Atul Kapur. “
“The current approach to tobacco use exempts cigarillos from most of the regulations that apply to cigarettes and excludes cigarillo use from standard measurements of smoking,” he explained. “Kids are falling through these cracks into the waiting hands of tobacco merchants, and we are not even properly counting them as casualties.”
Dr. Kapur explained that Canadians who smoke cigarillos but who do not smoke cigarettes are excluded from official estimates of smoking rates. This, he said, results in an underestimate of the true smoking rate of Canadians youth by 5 percentage points. “If we include the children who smoke only cigarillos and do not smoke cigarettes, we find that the estimates of youth smoking increase from 15% to 20%.”
Canadian law distinguishes between tobacco products which are wrapped in paper made from tobacco leaves (cigarillos) and those which are wrapped in paper made from trees (cigarettes). Unlike cigarettes, which cannot be sold in packages with fewer than 20 units, cigarillos can be sold individually and without health warning messages.
“Tobacco companies have marketed candy-flavoured tobacco products, packaged them in brightly coloured ‘try-me’ plastic tubes that resemble lip-gloss and priced them to be competitive with candy bars and chips,” said Dr. Kapur. “And the government has not been able to stop them.”
In a letter to the Minister of Health, Dr Kapur called for quick action to close the regulatory loopholes that have allowed cigarillos to be marketed. “The government needs to be able to move faster when problems like this arise,” he said. PSC recommends that Health Canada follow the lead of other jurisdictions in banning kid-friendly flavourings for tobacco and that it mandate standard packaging for all tobacco products.