WATCH ABOVE: New restrictions on flavoured tobacco use are less than two months away. There are calls to include menthol in the ban. Vinesh Pratap reports.
EDMONTON — Could menthol cigarettes soon be banned in Alberta? That’s the goal of a local anti-smoking group and now there’s renewed hope that it could happen.
“We are very, very keen on working with the health minister and the Alberta government to ban menthol tobacco,” said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health, an organization that works to reduce and prevent tobacco use in Alberta.
“It’s something we’re not prepared to give up on,” he said. “It’s just too important.”
New legislation, which bans flavoured tobacco, comes into effect on June 1. However, the legislation excludes menthol cigarettes. When the legislation was announced by the Prentice government in the fall, critics accused Health Minister Stephen Mandel of caving to tobacco lobbyists.
“I think that there was a process that was not followed long enough to talk with rural people and other individuals and a consultation process on that area,” said Mandel.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, menthol is the most harmful flavour of tobacco. And it’s particularly harmful among youth, according to Hagen who says one in three youth smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to one in 20 adult smokers.
“It’s obviously a product that’s targeted to young people. It’s obviously a starter product,” said Hagen. “We need to put the brakes on menthol tobacco.”
Ontario could soon be the first province in Canada to include menthol in a flavoured tobacco ban; the province’s legislation recently passed second reading. Here in Alberta, Mandel says the topic will be back up for discussion in September.
“We’re going to bring it back and allow it to go through the process. I can’t say what will or won’t happen, but I think there’s a desire to do that.”
Hagen looks forward to the opportunity to revisit the topic.
“The fact that the government is open to further discussion is very positive and we will certainly do our best to make the best case possible for the government to finally take action,” said Hagen.
With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.