This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture


WTF Wednesday: tobacco industry still targeting youth

Joe Thomson

If high-school kids are smoking, they’re likely to have used flavoured tobacco products like candy flavoured cigarillos, according to a coalition of health groups that released the findings of their Youth Smoking survey on Monday. More than 50 percent of those who smoked had used flavoured tobacco products, which have come under fire for their perceived surreptitious attempt to market candy-like flavours to children.

“Today’s data—from Canada’s 2010/11 Youth Smoking Survey (YSS)—shows that the tobacco industry’s flavoured products appeal to many more Ontario kids than we previously thought,” said Ontario Coalition Against Tobbaco’s Director Michael Perley on Monday. “The industry has avoided a 2009 ban on flavours in small filtered cigars by simply increasing the size of their products, which in turn has exempted them from the ban. There is only one way to deal with this industry’s efforts to seduce our kids with flavours: eliminate the latter outright.”

The tobacco industry circumventing regulations in order to sell greater amounts of their product to a naive consumer base? No. Not tobacco companies.  I won’t hear of this slanderous —








Oh right. Tobacco companies have been targeting youth forever. Even candy cigarettes have been regulated so that their branding cannot resemble real cigarette branding. You can’t get Popeye cigarettes anymore, you can only get “candy sticks”, without the red tip so as not to look like a lit cigarette. We’ve made it extremely difficult for tobacco companies to replenish their dying market base, but they’re still finding ways to circuitously target the cool kids.


The first cigarette I ever smoked was a Winston. It tasted like soot and had I been offered a watermelon flavoured cigarillo instead, I would have gladly accepted. So would any kid. It’s common sense that children will be more likely to try something that is more pleasingly flavoured. I’m not an anti-tobacco advocate by any means, but I do find the willingness of these companies to find new ways to entice youngsters troubling. I think the great Norm Macdonald sums it up well in this clip.

The push for a ban on these products seems like the only way to stop the relentless youth marketing strategies that tobacco companies employ. To me, it’s not that they do it—kids will always want to smoke, tobacco interests will always want kids to smoke— it’s the sneakiness of it that annoys me. Increasing the size of your cigarillos (Hey kids! Not only do our cool cigarette-cigar hybrids come in wacky flavours there’s more tobacco goodness in each puff!) to sidestep the Tobacco Act is not something lawmakers should let slide, just on principle if not because of the obvious health risks.

Show Comments