Toronto, ON Oct. 15, 2014 – Ontario’s doctors are calling on government to bring back tobacco legislation banning candy and fruit-flavoured cigarettes while adding to it a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes, as new information shows that underage smokers who use menthol cigarettes smoke more often and are more likely to continue the habit later in life.
The new data shows that nearly a quarter of young smokers in Ontario report smoking menthol cigarettes and that youth in grades 9-12 who smoke menthol cigarettes smoke almost a pack more per week. Those same youth, the information reveals, are almost three times more likely to report that they intend to continue smoking compared to their non-menthol smoking peers.
“Tobacco is still a very significant health issue in Ontario,” said Dr. Ved Tandan, President of the Ontario Medical Association. “Preventing children, young adults and others from smoking must be a goal for policy makers, educators and physicians alike. Addressing the availability of products, such as menthol and flavoured cigarettes, which encourage youth to start or continue smoking should be a part of this strategy.”
Findings have shown that menthol produces a cooling and desensitizing effect on the mouth and throat. In fact, menthol can also significantly reduce irritation caused by exposure to nicotine, and can lead to inhibition of nicotine metabolism, thus allowing the smoker to more comfortably use nicotine for prolonged periods of time.
Evidence suggests that at least some of the youth smoking menthol cigarettes choose to do so because they didn’t like the flavour of regular cigarettes and their decision to smoke is facilitated by what they perceive to be better tasting ones. Additionally, some may smoke menthol products because they like the minty flavour. Like candy and fruit-flavoured tobacco products, menthol sweetens smoking and can be a way to entice the novice smoker.
“The evidence clearly shows that menthol makes it easier and more likely for kids to smoke,” said Dr. Tandan. “Ontario’s doctors are calling on government to ban menthol and candy-flavoured tobacco products now.”
Ontario’s doctors have long been a leading voice against the use of tobacco and have regularly reported on the subsequent health risks. In recent years, governments have passed several significant pieces of legislation and implemented a number of initiatives including: prohibiting the sale of tobacco to people under 19 years of age; limiting tobacco advertising; eliminating smoking from the workplace and public places; and curbing exposure to second-hand smoke.
But there is more work to be done.
“Ontario’s doctors are committed to working with government to reduce tobacco use, and we look forward to helping more patients quit, while doing all we can to ensure youth don’t start to smoke,” said Dr. Tandan.
A backgrounder is available online
- 13,000 deaths are directly related to smoking in Ontario every year – one person almost every 40 minutes.
- Tobacco-induced disease directly costs Ontario’s health care system $1.6 billion annually.
- 1 in 4 Ontario youth in grades 9-12, who report smoking, say they smoked menthol cigarettes.