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Ontario MPPs pass bill banning single cigarillos

The Toronto Star, Robert Benzie, Queen's Park Bureau Chief, December 05, 2008

Ontario is stamping out candy-flavoured cigarillo "singles" aimed at children and teens.

In a move to curb youth smoking, MPPs yesterday unanimously passed a bipartisan private member's bill to outlaw the single-serve cigarillos that are brightly packaged and carry no health warnings due to a legal loophole.

"It's excellent for the protection of children in Ontario," said New Democrat MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt), who co-sponsored the legislation with Liberal MPP Dave Levac (Brantford).

Levac said the imported cigarillos - which come in tubes or small boxes resembling candy or lip-gloss and sell for as little as $1 - are aimed at attracting new smokers.

Added Gélinas: "Those are deadly products that kids have access to and we had to act quickly before thousands Read More ..come addicted smokers and join the ranks of the (thousands of) people a year who die in Ontario because they are smokers."

The cigarillos carry brand names such as Bravo, Café Crème, and Happy Hour and are available in flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, peach, grape, and piña colada.

Because they are wrapped in tobacco leaf, not paper, they are considered cigars - which makes them exempt from cigarette laws that mandate health warnings and forbid "kiddie packs."

Under the new law, expected to take effect within six months, flavouring additives - except for menthol - will be banned. In addition, cigarillo makers will be forced to sell their products in costlier packages of 20.

Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best praised Gélinas and Best for their initiative. "Anything that saves even one child's life means a lot to me."

Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, said the flavoured cigarillos are popular among young smokers.

"The flavouring and packaging might lead people to think they're not as dangerous, but the levels of potent carcinogens are higher than in cigarettes," said Perley, noting 80 million of the singles are sold annually in Canada.

Still, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said the legislation was in effect a Liberal government "sideshow" meant to distract Ontarians from Read More ..essing concerns like the economy.

"The very fact that they're spending their time talking about ... banning coloured or flavoured cigarillos is an indication of how bankrupt they are," said Tory.