Sugar coating a deadly product

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When it comes to industries like tobacco, government needs to keep pace with product development.

That’s especially true with the big tobacco companies – which, like any company, thinks about its future customers. Unfortunately, that means marketing aimed at youth.

The University of Waterloo published a study last week that showed more than half of Canadian teens who smoke choose products infused with such flavours as bubble-gum, cherry or watermelon. The study, published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control journal ‘Preventing Chronic Disease,’ is based on the 2010-2011 Youth Smoking Survey of Grade 9-12 students from across Canada.

As reported by The Canadian Press, lead author Leia Minaker, a postdoctoral fellow at the university’s Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, said the tobacco industry promotes cigarettes, cigarillos and smokeless tobacco with a variety of flavours and glitzy packaging to attract young people to the addictive products.

Seeing those kinds of introductory-level products isn’t surprising. Consider booze. A generation or so ago big sellers among youth were Baby Duck, Lonesome Charlie and that kind of soda-pop-like fare. Now it’s coolers with similar sweet-tooth appeal.

Talk about your gateway drugs.

This survey suggests that, although smoking rates continue to decline, manufacturers aren’t giving up until the last breath is drawn by a smoker – or until governments figure out a way to do without the revenue from the tax markup and legislate them out of existence.

Those involved with the study say tobacco, dangerous product that it is, should not be masked with the appeal of candy. Small products of the flavoured stuff were banned some years ago for just this reason, but the industry responded with slightly bigger sizes.

Some provinces are considering tougher regulations. Doubtless the tobacco industry will fight it. But considering what’s at stake, government needs all the support it can get to fight this one.

Organizations: University of Waterloo, U.S. Centers, Canadian Press

Geographic location: Canada

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