From a ripple to a tide: Youth changing public policy

Youth from the former Northwest Ontario Youth Action Alliance (NWYAA) were concerned that flavoured tobacco products and candy-like packaging are used by the tobacco industry to get youth addicted to tobacco at a young age. When NDP Health Critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis tabled a Private Member’s Bill on June 16, 2008, calling for a ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco products, the youth decide to take their concern national and make a lasting impact on young people’s health.

The youth from NWYAA contacted Judy’s Ottawa office to find out how they could work together to bring this issue to the attention of all Canadians. With the financial support of Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada (PSC), the youth set up a national, non-partisan, apolitical campaign called Flavour…GONE!, asking the federal government to ban all flavoured tobacco products from store shelves in Canada because these products clearly target youth. Due in no small part to the efforts of the youth from NWYAA, a federal bill (C-32) was passed in 2010 banning the sale of some flavoured tobacco products, including filtered cigarillos and blunt wraps. The bill did not include chew tobacco and left loopholes that the tobacco industry can use to target youth.

The youth of NWYAA continue to demonstrate how when young people believe in something, they are so determined to see it to the end by continuing their efforts to close these loopholes.

They use a variety of tools such as their website, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, print materials, and fun actions like “Morph Suit” flash mobs to mobilize other youth to join the Flavour…GONE! campaign and to raise public awareness. The youth also use more traditional advocacy techniques like getting other youth to talk with their local members of parliament about flavoured tobacco and the need to protect the young people from the health threats these products pose, and collecting signatures for a petition that will be delivered to the House of Commons to remind decision-makers that banning flavoured tobacco is an important issue for Canadian citizens.

Learn more about the Flavour…GONE! Campaign.