Youth survey finds levels of cigarillo use persist, but users don't consider
themselves 'smokers'

WATERLOO, ON, May 31 /CNW/ - The results of the latest national Youth Smoking Survey (YSS) indicate that youth are not seeing cigarillos as harmful as cigarettes, supporting the need for impending Bill C-32.

Passed in October 2009, Bill C-32 contained an immediate ban on tobacco advertising in newspapers and magazines. A ban on flavoured cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps at the manufacturer/import level followed on April 6, 2010, and by July 5, 2010 these flavoured tobacco products will be banned at the retail level.

The 2008-09 version of the survey, released in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day, found that 9 per cent - 247,504 youth - in Grades 6 to 12 smoked cigarillos or little cigars in the last month. Yet new data indicate that 85 per cent of youth who smoked just cigarillos or little cigars considered themselves "non-smokers," versus 33 per cent of who smoked just cigarettes.

"Tobacco is tobacco - it's addictive and has health risks that appear no matter what form it comes in," said Steve Manske, senior scientist at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo, who conducted the survey. Manske admits he's concerned about the large group of youth who are slipping through the cracks because they don't consider themselves at risk.

"If a kid doesn't perceive himself to be a smoker because he is 'only' smoking cigarillos, a prevention program will not be effective. Similarly, efforts to help kids quit smoking won't reach the cigarillo smokers, because they don't consider themselves smokers," Manske said. He also warns about modelling behaviour, where youth who haven't yet tried this form of tobacco may be more inclined to because their friends perceive it as less harmful.

The Canadian Cancer Society reports lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in Canada. It is estimated that 85 per cent of lung cancer cases are related to using tobacco products.

Currently, nearly all cigarillos are flavoured, many of which appeal to youth, such as strawberry, mint, vanilla, chocolate and cherry. Their packaging may seem harmless, mimicking those of candy wrappers and prior to April 6, 2010, they could be sold individually, making them more affordable.

The latest YSS reports that 33 per cent of cigarillo or little cigar smokers bought them from retail sources, which will change after the legislation comes into effect on July 5, 2010. Still, 37 per cent of youth bought them from social sources and 30 per cent did not buy cigarillos or little cigars. This last group may account for sharing among other youth.

The researcher who coordinates the study for Health Canada is heartened by the Bill C-32, but concerned that cigarillo-smoking youth who define themselves as non-smokers will be left out of audience groups targeted for smoking cessation and intervention programs. Manske also believes that the new legislation will not entirely eliminate the problem, as companies that market cigarillos may redesign their products to get around the "little cigar" definition in Bill C-32.

"We're making inroads by accelerating the generation and use of relevant and timely evidence to inform decision makers to improve the health of Canadian youth, but there is still a long road ahead," said Manske. "As a starting point, our efforts to prevent youth from smoking, and encourage those who are to quit, must be expanded beyond a traditional focus on cigarettes in order to help kids stay tobacco-free."

    
    The 2008-09 survey also found:

    -   Fewer girls than boys who smoked cigarillos, little cigars or
        cigarettes defined themselves as smokers.
    -   Youth from Atlantic provinces who smoked cigarillos, little cigars or
        cigarettes are less likely to define themselves as smokers.
    -   For youth in Grades 6-9, 10 per cent had ever tried smoking
        cigarillos or little cigars. As with cigarettes, the higher the
        grade, the more the reported use and in Grades 10-12, 35 per cent of
        youth reported having ever tried cigarillos or little cigars. With
        respect to current use, 4 per cent of all youth in Grades 6-9 and 14
        per cent of those in Grades 10-12 reported that they had used
        cigarillos or little cigars in the last 30 days.
    -   Of youth in Grades 6-9 that had ever tried smoking cigarettes, 40 per
        cent had also tried smoking cigarillos or little cigars. In Grades
        10-12, this rate was 60 per cent. Of more concern were youth who had
        never tried smoking cigarettes that were trying these products. In
        Grades 6-9, 1 per cent of youth that had never tried smoking a
        cigarette had tried smoking cigarillos or little cigars, but for the
        higher grades, the rate was 11 per cent.
    -   Overall, cigarette smoking rates did not change since the 2006-07
        survey, but have risen significantly from 2004-05 for Grades 6-9
        (from 2 per cent to 3 per cent). Since the 2006-07 survey, current
        smoking rates in Grades 10-12 have risen from 11 to 13 per cent,
        though the rate of "never smokers" remained unchanged.
    

More information on the survey and its results can be found at: www.yss.uwaterloo.ca

When it was first administered in 1994, the YSS was the largest and most comprehensive survey of youth smoking behaviour conducted since 1979. The most recent YSS involved 51,922 students in Grades 6 to 12 in 329 schools from all 10 provinces.

The survey is funded by Health Canada and was conducted by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact and collaborators in each province. Propel is committed to preventing cancer and chronic disease by improving health at a population level, and reducing the impact of cancer on people affected by it. A partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society and the University of Waterloo, Propel brings together 30 years of experience in impact-oriented science. Our initial focus is on tobacco control, youth health, and improved quality of life for those who have been touched by cancer. For details, visit www.propel.uwaterloo.ca

About Waterloo

The University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle, is one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities. Waterloo is home to 30,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students who are dedicated to making the future better and brighter. Waterloo, known for the largest post-secondary co-operative education program in the world, supports enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. For more information about Waterloo, visit www.uwaterloo.ca

SOURCE University of Waterloo

For further information: For further information: Tanya Sood, communications, Waterloo Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, (519) 888-4567 ext. 31063 or tsood@uwaterloo.ca; Steve Manske, senior scientist, Waterloo Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, (519) 888-4518 or manske@uwaterloo.ca; John Morris, Waterloo media relations, (519) 888-4435 or jmorris@uwaterloo.ca


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