June 1, marks the first day smokers in Alberta won’t be able to find flavoured tobacco products in stores.

The provincial government ban on the sale of flavoured tobacco took effect Monday. Exceptions to the ban are pipe tobacco and cigars that cost more than $4 each - and weigh five grams or more.

Also, effective June 1, government officials stated cigarettes, bidis (thin, hand-rolled cigarettes), blunt wraps, and certain cigars are now required to be sold in, what they describe as, minimum package sizes.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced yesterday that menthol flavoured tobacco will also be included in the ban starting this fall.

The government claims the move is an effort to protect young people from starting smoking and help prevent cancer.

“Statistics show that more than half of Alberta’s youth tobacco users are using flavoured tobacco. Statistics also show that of youth who are smoking today, more than a third of them are smoking menthol…and that is why our cabinet has decided to remove the exemption on menthol,” Hoffman pointed out in a news conference.

“I think we can all agree that we don’t want young people to start using tobacco. And we need to take a measured fair approach on this issue,” she stated.

The ban on menthol will come into place after September 30, 2015. Hoffman said consultation with retailers prompted the delay so they can sell off their remaining stock.

Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association, said small business owners were not consulted. “This unilateral approach to decision making does not bode well for businesses across Alberta,” he said in a statement.

"All we wanted was a chance to speak to this government about the impact of their decision - on our stores and on community safety through the rise of illegal cigarettes. We were denied that chance," Klukas went on to say.

Hoffman said an underground market isn’t something she’s particularly concerned about. “I personally think Albertans in general follow the law and if something is illegal for purchase I think that they will probably respect that,” she explained.  

Nova Scotia recently implemented a similar ban. That prompted Imperial Tobacco Canada to launch a legal challenge against the province saying the government had stepped beyond its legislative authority. The Alberta Health Minister said her government has consulted with legal counsel and is not concerned a similar lawsuit will be launched.

In a statement, Angeline Webb with the Canadian Cancer Society said menthol cigarettes are starter products that make it easier for youth to get hooked on tobacco. “[We applaud] the Government of Alberta for being a leader on this issue and taking this bold step that will help better protect our youth from the harmful health consequences of tobacco use,” she stated.

According to the government, each year tobacco use is linked to about 3,000 deaths in Alberta.

The announcement on May 31 coincided with World No Tobacco Day.