Upcoming flavoured tobacco ban on NDP docket

Premier Rachel Notley said Wednesday Albertans can expect news from her government in the coming days about a potential menthol cigarette ban.

Legislation banning specific flavours of tobacco products in the province is set to come into force Monday because they are enticing to youth.

But the ban exempts menthol, a move that earned the former Progressive Conservative government harsh criticism from Notley’s NDP when her caucus sat in opposition.

David Eggen, the NDP’s former health critic and newly minted education minister, slammed the Tories for allowing the law to be “side-swiped,” calling it a “triumph of friends and insiders over common sense and good medical practice.”

With the NDP forming government in Alberta, however, Notley has the power to add menthol to the list of banned flavours by amending the regulations through a cabinet order.

“We were not in favour of the (PC) government changing its position and exempting menthol from the ban,” the premier said Wednesday. “We’re in the course of getting briefings and having discussions about it and I expect you’ll see an announcement from us in the very few days to come.”

Interim Liberal leader David Swann said he is willing to give the new government time to navigate the issues, but said banning menthol is an easy step to take.

“I will be holding them accountable,” Swann said. “This is an important health issue that has to do with lifelong addiction, significant health impacts and significant health costs.”

Anti-smoking advocates have long called on the government to include menthol in the ban.

Menthol cigarettes are the most popular flavoured tobacco among Canadian youth, and advocates argue it’s also the most detrimental because it allows nicotine to be more easily absorbed, leading to addiction more quickly.

Tobacco companies have argued menthol flavouring should be classified separately from sweet flavours like cherry or bubble gum, which are included in the ban because of their potential appeal to youth.

Menthol should be excluded and “not considered one of the fruity, candy-flavoured tobacco products,” said Imperial Tobacco Canada spokeswoman Nadine Bernard.

She said she hopes the government reviews all the evidence before making a decision.

Health groups and local students are scheduled to hold a news conference Thursday morning outside the Alberta legislature to call on the Notley government to include menthol in the ban.

By Mariam Ibrahim, Edmonton Journal

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