We are third year nursing students at UBC-Okanagan and are writing in regard to the growing amount of flavoured tobacco products available today. With National Non-Smoking Week upon us, we feel it is important to address this concern specifically because of the way these products are being marketed towards youth.
When you hear the flavours cherry, pear, apple, chocolate, etc., tobacco products probably don’t immediately come to mind, but now-a-days these flavours and many more are available in a wide variety of tobacco products. Elaborate colourful packaging is used to make products much more enticing. With our research it’s become very clear to us just how obvious the tobacco industry gears the marketing of these products to youth. Flavours help to mask the taste of tobacco and to make smoking more appealing. Youth are more likely to try smoking if something tastes like, say, a candy apple. Products are also available individually at a price for less than a toonie, so youth can easily afford them. Parental awareness is crucial, as many parents may not even recognize a tobacco product in their child’s bag, because they look so similar to makeup, markers and candy products.
Research shows that smoking rates are decreasing which means the tobacco companies are losing money. So, to make up for losses they have invested billions of dollars in products to get youth hooked, as it is a well-known fact that young people are most likely to take up smoking, become addicted and then continue to smoke throughout adulthood. When the federal government’s Bill C-32 was passed in 2009, it made it illegal for tobacco products under the weight of 1.4gand with a filter to be flavoured. So what did the tobacco companies do? They simply increased the weight and removed the filter in some products to get around this law. Statistics show that 61% of all youth age 15-19 who smoke are using flavoured tobacco such as menthols, smokeless tobacco, or little cigars know as cigarillos.
As nursing students this is extremely concerning. We see the devastating effects smoking has on people. Lung cancer alone causes more deaths than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer combined as approximately 50 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer will die from it. We comfort families whose loved one has just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and sit with the terrified patient who can’t breathe due to his loss of lung function from years of smoking. A large majority of the patients we care for, who have other serious health problems such as cardiac disease, stroke, and lung disease are or were previously smokers. Many of these health issues could potentially be prevented by quitting or by never having smoked in the first place.
We would like to see a ban on all flavoured tobacco products. Tobacco companies are targeting youth, capitalizing on their susceptibility to peer pressure, and using flavoured, dynamic products to make them more appealing and trendy. We feel our government has a responsibility to protect the health of our youth and ban these flavoured products. We know the truth; we see it and no matter what flavour it comes in, continued use of these products kills and causes serious health issues that consume exhausted health care dollars. We feel that if these flavoured, “starter” tobacco products were no longer available, youth would be less inclined to try them, thereby reducing risk of addiction and ultimately decreasing the rates of adult smokers and the harmful complications caused by long-term smoking.
Heather deMedeiros and Katelyn Roberts
Third Year Nursing Students