Tobacco company's claims inaccurate, say Waterloo researchers

WATERLOO, ON, Jan. 30, 2014 /CNW/ - Claims by cigar distributor Casa Cubana that flavoured tobacco products are not a threat to today's youth are at odds with research, say researchers at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo.

On Tuesday the Quebec-based company issued a press release claiming that anti-tobacco groups and health organizations are misleading the public and governments on the dangers of flavoured tobacco use among youth by promoting a limited interpretation of Heath Canada's Youth Smoking Survey (YSS), conducted by Propel.

"Casa Cubana's comments disregard the research and for this reason are completely inaccurate," said Steve Manske, a Senior Scientist with Propel. "The science at the basis of this research is solid, and we are concerned about the motives to discredit that science."

The company claims that the issue of flavoured tobacco use among youth is exaggerated. They point to YSS data which show that among students who did not smoke, only 1 per cent tried a flavoured tobacco product in the 30 days preceding the survey.

"The tobacco company does not explain this number, and it cannot be extracted from the Propel report. But even if 1 per cent were true, 29,000 youth is a substantial and important number at risk," said Manske.

Casa Cabana also argues that the flavoured tobacco market is adult-driven and a ban would be an unwarranted undermining of individuals rights.

"They weren't clear on how they came up with many of their numbers," said Leia Minaker, a postdoctoral fellow with Propel. "The most recent data from the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey shows that 82 per cent of 15-19 year old tobacco users used flavoured tobacco products other than cigarettes in the last 30 days. This is compared to only 55 percent of those aged 20 and older. In our opinion, Casa Cubana has not done a fair job of interpreting the data, and we are concerned about their motivation. It's not about undermining rights, it's about protecting the health of our youth," said Minaker.

"We are confident about the accuracy of the Propel report, which found that over half of Canadian students in grades 9-12 who used tobacco products in the last 30 days used flavoured tobacco," said Manske.

Smoking continues to be the leading preventable cause of death in Canada, with more than 80 per cent of smokers starting before they are 18. As a result, flavoured tobacco cannot take a back seat to the equally important issues of alcohol, marijuana and illicit drug use among today's youth.

"We must decide what is important in our communities.  Are we concerned about the tax revenues from these products, or the health of our youth? Casa Cubana said a ban would cost millions in annual government tax revenues, but what about the thousands of potential lives and the billions of health care dollars that go up in smoke? This is the real issue," said Manske.

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SOURCE University of Waterloo

For further information: Media Contact: Nick Manning (nmanning@uwaterloo.ca), University of Waterloo, 519-888-4451, 226-929-7627, www.uwaterloo.ca/news, @uWaterlooNews