Canadian provinces first in world to ban menthol flavouring

08 Jun 2015

On 31 May, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in the world to prohibit the sale of flavoured cigarettes and tobacco, including those flavoured with menthol. The same day, Alberta announced that it would ban menthol cigarettes as of 30 September 2015.

Three other provinces, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, have now introduced legislation to ban flavoured tobacco, including menthol. A fourth, Prince Edward Island, has committed to do so.

Provinces lead federal government

“I think provinces are enacting it because it is the right thing to do, and the federal [Canadian] government has not done so,” says Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). “I think once a few provinces moved, it becomes easier for others.”

Rob noted that the new Tobacco Products Directive in the European Union will require the 28 Member States to prohibit menthol cigarettes as of 20 May 2020. Other countries that implement the EU Directive (e.g. Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, EU candidate countries, will do so as well.)

When he announced the measure, Nova Scotia’s Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine said that one-third of youths in the province who use tobacco consume menthol-flavoured tobacco, surveys found.

The Nova Scotia ban exempts liquor-flavoured pipe tobacco and cigars that weigh more than five grams and cost over CDN$4.

Menthol most deceptive

According to the CCS: “Of all tobacco flavourings, menthol has the most deceptive characteristics. Menthol masks the harsh properties of tobacco smoke, allows a person to inhale smoke more deeply and enhances nicotine absorption which increases the related health risks.

“Teens who try menthol cigarettes are more likely to continue to smoke than those who start experimenting with regular cigarettes,” continues the website.

Imperial Tobacco disputed that menthol flavouring is used to attract young smokers, and almost immediately challenged the ban in a Nova Scotia court.

In 2012, Brazil announced a ban on all flavourings, including menthol, but it has yet to be enacted because of legal challenges from the industry.

In 2010, 172 Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) approved guidelines on tobacco flavourings and additives (FCTC Art. 9&10).

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