Menthol cigarettes, slim cigarillos, green apple waterpipe tobacco — they all have to go, says one Alberta teen.
Jianna Marin of Lloydminster has launched a provincewide campaign calling for the full implementation of Bill 206, which prohibits the sale of flavoured tobacco in Alberta.
Marin, 18, stopped in Red Deer on Wednesday as part of her month-long speaking tour and discussed how tobacco products with candy and fruit flavouring primarily target youth.
“We want to get rid of flavoured tobacco so more youth don’t start using tobacco in high school and continue for the rest of their lives. Most wouldn’t start using tobacco if it wasn’t for the flavoured tobacco,” Marin said after speaking to a class at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.
A Health Canada survey reports there are about 25,700 Alberta adolescents from Grades 9 through 12 using flavoured tobacco products, representing 56 per cent of all youth tobacco users in the province. Half of those flavoured tobacco youth users are using menthol cigarettes, the survey also found. It’s a sharp contrast to the less than five per cent of adult smokers who use menthols, Marin added.
Tobacco companies are currently trying to have menthols exempted from the legislation through lobbyists, she said.
“About 13,000 youth are using menthols. If that gets exempt, that leaves them unprotected and condemns thousands more in the future to start using it.”
The Action on Smoking and Health organization states menthol is a gateway product for youth to become easily addicted to smoking as it opens the airways, soothes the throat and increases nicotine absorption into the bloodstream.
Marin said her goal with the campaign, titled One Teen takes on the Tobacco Giants, is to rally more support from youth for the provincewide ban on flavoured tobacco to show the government it’s a priority.
While Bill 206 was passed in 2013 and received royal assent in December, it’s not across the finish line yet, Marin said.
The bill has yet to be enacted and is still awaiting proclamation by cabinet.
“The problem is it’s just been sitting there and now we realize we need to get this bill passed through the cabinet before any new elections come up, otherwise it could just end up sitting there forever and then there would be no protection for youth. We need it done now with no delays or exemptions.”
Members of the public cans how their support by joining Marin’s social media campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the handle “JoinJianna2014” and by contacting their MLAs at smokefreealberta.com/take-action.html.