Controversy surrounds possible menthol cigarette ban in Nova Scotia

DARTMOUTH – The spring sitting of the Nova Scotia legislature has not yet started, but the posturing over the government’s promised flavoured-tobacco ban has already begun.

On Tuesday, the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association called on the government to exclude menthol tobacco from the ban, saying the flavoured cigarettes will still be brought into the province through illegal means.

“If the province looks at possibly banning this product, then the floodgates will open up and there will be much more access for this product at a much cheaper price than what they’re paying right now,” said association president Mike Hammoud.

The legislation to be tabled during the spring session, which opens Thursday, is expected to ban flavouring in cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The association is concerned that  will include menthol, which has been around for 80 years.

John O’Reilly, president of Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers, has concerns about a possible spike in illegal tobacco sales.

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“The profits that go from the sale of illegal tobacco help support organized crime and takes away funding from health care and education,” he said.

However, the province’s chief medical officer of heal, Dr. Robert Strang, isn’t convinced that will happen.

“Every time anything comes forward around tobacco control they throw up their arms and say [it’s] going to exacerbate our contraband problem, and that never comes true,” he said.

Hammoud said targeting menthol won’t do much to stop young people from smoking.

“We don’t believe the product that’s being sold through our channel targets youth,” he said.

Strang believes the opposite is true.

“We know that menthol is actually a significant contributor to young people who begin to use tobacco products,” he said.

Five per cent of tobacco that’s sold contains menthol, but Strang added that 34 per cent of young people who smoke say they had used menthol products in the previous month.

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Hammoud said a menthol ban will hurt the province’s bottom line, too.

“The government’s probably going to lose $10 million revenue every year, just on the menthol side,” he said.