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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, campaigning ahead of the October 14 general election, promised on Wednesday to crack down on the marketing of flavored tobacco products like cigarillos, which he said were aimed at young people.
Harper said he was appalled to see "kiddy packs" of cigarillos being sold for less than C$2 each.
"Flavoring and packaging them like candy, gum or a fruit roll up," Harper said. "This just isn't right. This practice can't continue. We will not tolerate it."
Cigarillos are rolled in tobacco leaves, rather than paper, and are subject to more relaxed rules than cigarettes in terms of health warnings and packaging sizes. They come in flavors like peach, wild berry and chocolate and are more frequently smoked by teenagers than adults.
The Conservative prime minister said his government would seek to set a minimum package size for cigarillos and other tobacco products to make them less affordable and prohibit flavorings that may entice young people
The opposition New Democratic Party presented a similar bill to Parliament in June.
A coalition of physicians and health groups welcomed the announcement by Harper.
"Tobacco companies have used loopholes, candy flavors and fancy packaging to lure children into nicotine addiction," said Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Robert Ouellet.
The legal smoking age in Canada differs from province to province and is either 18 or 19.
According to a youth campaign against the products called "Flavour Gone," the market for flavored tobacco products has grown to 81 million units in 2006 from 50,000 in 2001.
The most popular brands in Canada are Prime Time, Colt and Swisher Sweets, it said.
Reporting by Louise Egan