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NDP calls for flavoured tobacco products ban

Douglas College student Brandon Eyre lets Saba Fatemi, a NWSS grad, take a whiff of a pack of tobacco rolling papers with a peaches and cream scent. They say the packaging makes it looks like gum. Fatemi, Eyre and NDP health critic and New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy want the province to ban similar flavoured tobacco products.  - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
Douglas College student Brandon Eyre lets Saba Fatemi, a NWSS grad, take a whiff of a pack of tobacco rolling papers with a peaches and cream scent. They say the packaging makes it looks like gum. Fatemi, Eyre and NDP health critic and New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy want the province to ban similar flavoured tobacco products.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

Douglas College student and New Westminster resident Brandon Eyre was asthmatic growing up and avoided cigarettes. But when he was 14 or 15 he found out two of his best friends smoked, and he really couldn't tell.

They had obtained flavoured tobacco products that disguised the smell making it harder for their parents and authorities to catch them.

"It surprised me when I finally realized they were able to get cigarettes," said Eyre. "It alarms to know my little brother is going to see my friends do this."

Eyre said since his brother doesn't have asthma and likes candy he could be vulnerable to falling victim to the nasty habit.

"It's very easy to get away with. Parents can't smell them," said Eyre. "You can pretend it's almost anything."

Eyre joined NDP health critic and New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy in calling for the provincial government to ban them.

"There's absolutely no reason to wait for the federal government to act. It's a very real problem and the province needs to act now," said Darcy.

Alberta has banned the products although it has yet to be implemented. Legislation to ban them has also been introduced in Manitoba and Ontario.

"Other provinces have moved on this and B.C. should too," said Darcy.

Darcy said 30,000 young people start smoking every year in B.C. While the percentage of youths has dropped dramatically during the last few decades, it has remained steady at 14.5 per cent over the last few years, she noted. One of the reasons, she asserted, is because of flavoured tobacco products. She cited a Canadian Cancer Society survey that showed 53 per cent of the province's youth who smoked in the last 30 days used flavoured tobacco products.

"There is an aggressive marketing strategy underway to target youth with these products," said Darcy.

Some of the smaller products have none of the blatant warnings required on cigarette cases because they are sold individually.

"They're equally as toxic because they're sold singlehandedly," said Darcy. "It's very easy to have one with you."

One package Darcy produced was Juicy Jay's Peaches and Cream rolling papers. It looked like a gum pack and said it was to be used for legal smoking herbs and not for tobacco use. Darcy is not buying the manufacturer's statement. She believes it's purpose is to help the user disguise tobacco.

Deception of parents and authority is a big motivation for youth to purchase the products, said Darcy. Individual cigarettes or cigarellos are made to look like eyeliner or a sharpie. They also smell nicer than cigarettes and go down easier.

"It's terrifying to me to see products like this are on the shelves," Eyre said.

In a statement to the NewsLeader, Health Minister Terry Lake said he expressed his concern about flavoured tobacco to federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose. He said Health Canada has the expertise to administer the regulation of the industry.

"Federal legislation would ensure a consistent cross-Canada ban on the product, rather than a patchwork of standards across the country, where efforts, testing and enforcement would be duplicated and more expensive," said Lake. "I am pleased that there will be a consistent level of protection developed for youth across Canada—regardless of where they live."

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