Companies under fire for flavouRed Cigarettes

Almost 200000 Quebecers quit smoking last year but the tobacco companies continue to lure youngsters with gimmicks like flavouRed Cigarettes, the province's ...

Almost 200,000 Quebecers quit smoking last year but the tobacco companies continue to lure youngsters with gimmicks like flavouRed Cigarettes, the province's director of public health said Sunday. "The industry just doesn't seem to understand," Dr. Alain Poirier said in an interview as the province kicked off its annual anti-smoking week. "It should reinvent itself and go into marketing fruit, not masking their product with fruit." According to Quebec Public Health Department figures, consumption of cigars and cigarillos is on the increase among high school students. In 2006, about one student in five (22 per cent) tried one of these products. The new Cigarettes, tinged with alcohol and food flavours, are the products of JTI Macdonald Corp., which is part of Japan Tobacco Inc. and is in bankruptcy proceedings after a $1.36-billion Quebec tax assessment in 2004 claiming the company aided and abetted smuggling. There are between 75,000 and 80,000 12-year-olds in the province, Poirier said, and that's the age most children begin experimenting with smoking. It's these potential tobacco customers that the anti-smoking campaign wants to reach most. No one from the company's Toronto office returned messages Sunday. Quebec actress Mireille Deyglun, who is a spokesperson for the anti-smoking week, knows first-hand the dangers of tobacco. Her father, brother and two cousins all died of lung cancer, and she smoked from the age of 12 before quitting in 1996 at the age of 37. "I know how hard it is (to quit)," she said. She joined the cause, partly because of her dead family members, but also because she has two teenage children. "And my son says he smokes from time to time." The flavouRed Cigarettes can be bought individually or in slickly designed packs of four, she said. A single smoke sells for $1.50 plus tax. "The tobacco companies are looking for ways to attract youth, which is perverse, because (by law) they aren't allowed to sell tobacco products to young people," Deyglun said. Another product, called snus, which is placed between the gum and upper lip but not chewed or swallowed, is being produced by Imperial Tobacco Canada. The company did not return phone calls Sunday. A study by Canadian researchers and published last August in the Lancet, a respected British medical journal, concluded that the risk of heart attack was equally serious whether tobacco is smoked, chewed or used in a water pipe. The Quebec government forks out about $20 million a year in programs to help people quit, Poirier said

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