Alberta ban on menthol tobacco takes effect Thursday

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Alberta ban on menthol tobacco takes effect Thursday

Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Because you won't have 'em long.

Smokers across Alberta were stocking up Wednesday ahead of a province-wide ban on menthol tobacco products that comes into effect at midnight.

The province announced the ban last May as part of a larger effort to eliminate flavoured products that critics say are meant to get youth hooked on smoking.

Renee Poirier spent $100 to buy as many packs as she could. She has smoked menthol for years and is unhappy about the government ban.

"As a menthol smoker, I would say it's a little upsetting that they're removing that choice from the adults," she said.

When her precious supply is gone, she said she might consider switching to a vapourizer, an increasingly popular choice for smokers and those trying to quit.

Bruce Lee runs a small convenience shop in the basement of Scotia Place. He said menthol brands make up less than 20 per cent of his cigarette sales.

"More variety makes us more revenue," he said. "But we have to follow the government rules."

When the previous Progressive Conservative government announced its ban on flavoured tobacco, menthol was specifically excluded. At the time, the Tories argued that eliminating menthol products would unfairly impact seniors and older smokers, who use them in greater numbers.

The NDP criticized that decision. Once the party took power, it moved to include menthol under the ban.

Starting Thursday, retailers in Alberta will no longer be allowed to sell flavoured tobacco products, with the exception of pipe tobacco and cigars above a certain weight and price.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said menthol cigarettes are used by one in four teenage smokers and she's confident the ban will help save lives.

Shop owners, she said, were given ample notice that the ban was coming.