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MP calls for crackdown on candy-like cigarillos

The National Post, Canwest News Service, Mia Rabson, Wednesday, March 05, 2008

OTTAWA - Cigarillos that look and taste like candy are intended to encourage children to smoke and should be subject to all the restrictions placed on cigarettes, a New Democrat MP says.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis plans to introduce a private member's bill in the coming weeks that would require cigarillos to be packaged and labelled under the same regulations as cigarettes.

Right now they are not subject to the same warning labels and sales restrictions, and can be sold individually.

"These are tobacco products designed specifically for kids to attract them to the idea of smoking at a young age," said Ms. Wasylycia-Leis, a Winnipeg MP.

Some cigarillos are marketed with sweet-tasting flavourings such as fruit -- or even peanut butter and jelly.

A Health Canada study in 2007 found 12% of Canadian teens are smoking cigarillos, but because of the way statistics are collected on smoking, many of those youths are not factored into smoking rates.

Smoking statistics generally count only those who say they smoke cigarettes. Five per cent of teenagers between 15 and 19 smoke cigarillos and are therefore excluded from smoking rate data.

Ms. Wasylycia-Leis said Canada is also in contravention of an agreement it signed with the World Health Organization related to smoking products.

Many of the cigarillo products are packaged in such a way that most parents would not know what they were if they found them in their children's belongings, she said.

Ms. Wasylycia-Leis's legislation would require cigarillos to be packaged no less than 20 per pack, and would ban flavourings. The bill also would require that cigarillo packages carry a warning label covering 50% of the package surface -- the same requirement as for cigarettes.