Medical students meet with MLAs to advocate ban on flavoured tobacco products

Raquel Maurier - 4 November 2013

Medical students from Edmonton and Calgary are meeting with Members of the Legislative Assembly today to advocate for a ban on flavoured tobacco products.

Each year, medical students in Alberta head to the legislature to lobby the provincial government about an important health-care topic. This annual initiative is known as Political Action Day.

Medical students hope banning flavoured tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes, flavoured cigars/cigarillos, and water pipe tobacco or chewing tobacco, will deter youth from smoking.

"We wanted to get behind an issue with a public health focus, something that could impact the lives of Albertans. It's a good way to lend support to a public health campaign that could make a difference on a larger scale," said second-year U of A medical student Lindsay Bowthorpe, who is leading this effort.

"A recent survey came out that revealed in Alberta 56 per cent of youth tobacco users are using flavoured tobacco products. It appeals to youth because of the taste and the packaging. It's really a way youth are getting into using tobacco products, so if we can (get the government) to ban the sale of these products, that could hopefully prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and then developing a lifelong addiction."

On the weekend, students prepared for the meeting by practising the key points they wanted to get across, and honing their public speaking skills, during a day-long training session at the U of A campus.

After medical students meet with the provincial health minister and other MLAs today, they will stay and observe some of the afternoon session of the legislature.

Medical students across Alberta have held annual meetings with provincial politicians since about 2008. This year, approximately 53 medical students will meet with MLAs.