09/10/2014 12:20 EDT | Updated 11/10/2014 05:59 EST

Survey findings on youth smoking points to need for flavoured tobacco ban

TORONTO - A new national report points to the need to ban flavoured tobacco products, the Canadian Cancer Society said Wednesday.

The latest iteration of the national Youth Smoking Survey found that nine per cent of teens reported using a flavoured tobacco product in the 30 days before the survey was taken.

That equates to half of the high school students who used tobacco products in the month before the survey was taken, or 137,000 students, the report noted.

The survey is conducted every two years for Health Canada by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo. It draws information from students in a representative sample of schools across the 10 provinces.

The latest survey, conducted between November 2012 and June 2013, involved 450 schools and 47,203 students. It did not include the province of Manitoba.

Federal legislation bans flavours — except menthol — from being added to cigarettes and cigarillos that weigh less than 1.4 grams.

But the cancer society said manufacturers sidestep that rule by making cigarillos that weigh more than 1.4 grams.

As well, water pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff are made in flavours such as chocolate, mint, cherry and strawberry — in other words, flavours that are appealing to young people.

"The society is very concerned that fruit- and candy-flavoured tobacco make it easier for youth to become addicted to tobacco. New legislation is needed as soon as possible to ban all flavoured tobacco products," said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the cancer society.

There are currently no provincial laws banning flavoured tobacco. Alberta adopted legislation in December 2013 that would ban flavoured tobacco, including menthol, but it has not yet been proclaimed into law.

Ontario and Manitoba have announced they will bring forward legislation and several others — including Quebec and Nova Scotia — have said they are considering the issue.