Canadian Convenience Stores Association

Canadian Convenience Stores Association

November 23, 2014 19:01 ET

Retailers Frustrated by Misleading Menthol Stats

Contraband tobacco the largest contributor to youth smoking

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 23, 2014) - Canada's convenience store retailers believe that statistics are being used improperly while provincial governments consider a menthol ban and are diverting attention from the real culprit behind youth smoking: inexpensive and easily obtained contraband tobacco.

As many provinces debate whether or not to include menthol as part of a ban on flavoured tobacco, retailers are increasingly concerned about the presence of contraband menthol products on the illegal tobacco market.

"There is no debate that we should be working towards zero tobacco consumption among youth," said Alex Scholten, President of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA). "But the reality is some of these stats are being used to fix a problem where there's little to fix. It is taking attention away from how to deal with overall youth tobacco consumption and solutions to solving this problem in particular."

According to the 2012/2013 Youth Smoking Survey (YSS) released by Health Canada, prevalence of youth having ever tried smoking a cigarette was at an all-time low. It showed that among Canadian students in grades 6-12 during the past year, 41 per cent had used alcohol, 19 per cent had smoked marijuana, 4 per cent used non-prescribed pharmaceutical drugs and 4 per cent used cigarettes.

Despite a continuous decline in youth smoking rates, misleading statistics are being promoted to cloud the debate on youth smoking in Canada, specifically with respect to menthol tobacco products.

In particular, a 2013 study conducted by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact (Propel) is frequently cited for its reportedly high use of menthol tobacco products by young people. Unlike the Health Canada study, Propel measured reported use of tobacco products in the past 30 days, as opposed to regular use. It did not sample the entire population, but only those who self-reported.

Retailers are asking decision-makers at all levels of government to consider all of the facts when making decisions on a menthol ban, which represents a small but significant portion of adult tobacco sales in convenience stores. Retailers are also asking decision makers to be mindful of the high volume and variety of menthol contraband products already available to young people through the illegal market.

"If anything, a menthol ban would further encourage adult smokers to go to the untaxed and unregulated illegal market. As there are no age checks at smoke shacks, we also have to assume these products will wind up in the hands of kids," said Scholten.

Canada's convenience stores are hopeful that their law-abiding businesses and adult consumers will not face negative consequences as a result of well-intentioned, but misdirected efforts to eradicate youth smoking.

"Our retailers are the gatekeepers between legal tobacco products and kids. We're a critical partner to health groups and governments in meeting the shared objective of reducing youth consumption. It is time for decision-makers to sort through all of the facts, and realize the role of retailers as part of the solution to youth smoking, rather than part of the problem."

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