The Ontario government announced Monday that it will introduce legislation to ban flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes.
The proposed legislation would also make illegal the sale of e-cigarettes to people under age 19 and prohibit their use anywhere smoking cigarettes is banned.
Tobacco retailers and distributors would have until Jan. 1, 2016, to comply with the flavored tobacco ban. The Health ministry proposes a temporary exemption for menthol cigarettes for up to two years after the ban on flavored tobacco comes into effect, said ministry spokesman David Jensen.
Here are five things to know about the province’s proposed ban on flavored tobacco:
1. The Health ministry says 46 per cent of young Ontarians who smoke had used flavored tobacco products, like menthol cigarettes and cigarillos, at least once in the past 30 days.
According to the federal government’s 2012-13 Youth Smoking Survey, about 55,300 Ontario secondary school students had used flavored tobacco at some point in the previous month.
2. Among Ontario youth who smoke, menthol cigarettes are the most popular flavored tobacco product, the province says.
Across Canada, 36.9 per cent of secondary school students who smoke daily and 18.1 per cent of experimental smokers smoke menthols.
In 2012-13, just 4 per cent of Ontario secondary school students said they smoked regularly.
Over the same period, 79 per cent of students said they had never smoked a cigarette, while 87 per cent said they had never finished a whole cigarette.
Those numbers have remained mostly steady since 2005-06, when the federal government began asking students in grades 5-12 about their smoking habits.
3. Ontario would be the first province in Canada to ban menthol cigarettes.
Flavored tobacco will become illegal in Alberta after June 2015, but in November the provincial government decided to exempt menthols from the ban. Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel said the government did not want to target adults who smoke menthols.
4. The Canadian Cancer Society supports the ban on menthol cigarettes, but said Monday the province should ban the cigarettes at the same time the flavored tobacco ban is implemented.
“Flavored tobacco, especially menthol, is appealing to youth and since the vast majority of smokers start before the age of 18, this important legislation — if passed — will help reduce youth smoking rates significantly,” said Canadian Cancer Society vice-president Rowena Pinto.
5. The Canadian Convenience Stores Association, which represents stores that sell cigarettes and other products, argues that a ban on menthol cigarettes will push the “small but significant portion” of adult smokers who use menthols to begin buying them illegally.
“If anything, a menthol ban would further encourage adult smokers to go to the untaxed and unregulated illegal market,” said association president Alex Scholten.
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