The Alberta government is banning the sale of some flavoured tobacco products in a bid to curb youth smoking — but is still allowing the sale of menthol cigarettes.
Health Minister Stephen Mandel defended the exclusion, saying that Alberta needs to “deal with the realities of the world.”
“It is a legal product,” he said. “People who smoke menthol who are older people need to be consulted and we’ll make sure we do that in the next little while and then we’ll bring it back to see how we can deal with these issues.”
The ban is one of several measures announced Thursday by Health Minister Stephen Mandel. The government is also prohibiting smoking in vehicles with children on board
The measures will be phased in over the next seven months. The prohibition on smoking in vehicles with minors starts immediately.
The ban on some flavoured tobacco products will start on June 1, 2015, along with a phasing out smaller pack sizes that young people often buy.
Opposition critics slammed the government for allowing menthol cigarettes.
“They’re addictive and unsafe for children and children who smoke are more likely to smoke more and longer with cigarettes that contain menthol,” said Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman. “So what this says is the Prentice conservatives have caved in to the tobacco lobby and refused to protect Alberta children.”
NDP MLA David Eggen called the menthol tobacco exemption a “triumph of insiders.”
“Menthol is the big issue here so don’t be fooled by this announcement,” he said. “Certainly this bill has been sideswiped by active lobbyists, friends and insiders of Stephen Mandel and Jim Prentice.”
Mandel said he has never met with anyone from the tobacco lobby.
While Les Hagen from Campaign for Smoke-free Alberta called the announcement a step forward, he also wanted the government to go with a complete ban on all types of flavoured tobacco.
“It’s obviously a starter product,” Hagen said. “Menthol and other flavourings are obviously being added to these products to make tobacco more palatable and more attractive to young people and it’s working.”