Big tobacco is still targeting kids

Tobacco companies are squeezing through loopholes in a new federal law banning candy-flavoured cigarillos so they can continue to sell smokes that appeal to kids, QMI Agency has learned.

The Tories pledged to get rid of the cigarettesize cigars — in flavours like grape, tangerine and vanilla — because they target children. But with the legislation set to kick in July 5, tobacco companies have found plenty of ways to get around it — a move critics call reprehensible.

The new law was supposed to make it illegal to flavour cigarillos made with 1.4 grams of tobacco or less, cigars with cigarette filters, and blunt wraps, tubes that can be filled with tobacco.

But tobacco companies have slightly increased the size and weight of the product, changed the label from cigarillo to cigar and removed the filters so they can still sell them in different flavours.

The smokes are even being sold to convenience stores through ads that brag they are “compliant” with the new law.

Dr. Anne Doig, head of the Canadian Medical Association, says she expects lawmakers to fix any loopholes.

“Anything that is tobacco that is intended to be chewed, smoked or otherwise consumed, it should be under the same strict regulations that all the other products are under,” she said. “It’s ridiculous that these things can be flavoured in that way, legally, and sold as a product that is anything other than what it is. It’s a tobacco product.”

The Canadian Lung Association will work with MPs to fix the law, said Louis Brill, chair of tobacco policy.

“The tobacco industry is once again clearly disrespecting the will of the Canadian people and certainly disrespecting the direction of Parliament and clearly disregarding the health of Canadian children,” he said.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq declined an interview request, despite the emphasis the Tories put on the ban in the 2008 election campaign, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced himself.

A spokeswoman for Health Canada said inspectors can issue warnings, seize the product, or refer the case for prosecution if a product breaks the law.

“Banning flavours in little cigars, cigarettes and blunt wraps (excluding menthol) addresses a significant part of the flavoured market and sends an important message to tobacco manufacturers that marketing tobacco to youth will not be tolerated,” Christelle Legault wrote in an email.

But the groups who were initially thrilled with the law are now angry tobacco makers didn’t get the message.

“That is absolutely reprehensible,” she said.


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