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Tobacco control – what we’re fighting for right now
Increase funding for Health Canada's tobacco control strategy
Funding for the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy (FTCS) should be increased so that Health Canada can have more impact to reduce smoking, including among youth. The existing funding level of $38 million per year is equal to just 1.1% of the $3.5 billion collected by the federal government through tobacco taxes. In the United States, per capita federal investments in tobacco control are more than double that in Canada. The current FCTS expires March 31, 2017. It is essential that there be a more effective and properly funded replacement to provide the comprehensive and sustained tobacco strategy Canada needs.
Implement plain packaging
Tobacco companies have used product packaging as an effective marketing strategy to depict positive lifestyle images, convey deceptive messages and detract from health warnings. Health Minister Philpott should move quickly on the federal government’s commitment to implement plain packaging. Australia became the first country to implement plain packaging in 2012, and Ireland and the United Kingdom will do so in May 2016.
Renew health warnings for all tobacco products
As of June, 2012, a new series of picture health warnings were required to cover 75% of the package front and back for cigarettes and some little cigars. Canada’s new warnings are among the best in the world but many product categories are not covered by these regulations. As a next step, Health Minister Philpott should renew warnings for all other tobacco products. Warnings for roll-your-own tobacco, smokeless tobacco, cigars and pipe tobacco have not been changed since 2001. Well-designed health warnings are effective at increasing awareness and decreasing tobacco use.
Ban all flavoured tobacco products
Tobacco products in fruit, candy, menthol and other flavours strongly appeal to youth. The national Youth Smoking Survey for the 2012–13 school year found that of high school students who use tobacco, 50% use flavoured tobacco, and of high school students who smoke, 29% smoke menthol. Health Minister Philpott should bring forward a regulation to ban flavours including menthol in all tobacco products, following the example of an increasing number of provinces.
Increase tobacco taxes
Increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to encourage smokers to quit and to prevent youth from starting to use tobacco. A price increase of 10% will generally result in a decrease in consumption of 4%. The federal government should implement a tobacco tax increase, providing both public health and public revenue benefits.
The Society recognizes the potential benefit that e-cigarettes may provide to Canadians trying to quit smoking, though research in this area is evolving. Other nicotine replacement products are known to help smokers quit and have been approved for use in Canada. However, Health Canada has not approved e-cigarettes with nicotine as a quit smoking product for sale in Canada. The Society only recommends nicotine replacement products that have been approved by Health Canada.
Meanwhile, e-cigarettes are widely available in Canada. Regulations are needed to prevent young people from using e-cigarettes and to help prevent the marketing of e-cigarettes from undermining tobacco control efforts. Federal and provincial governments should adopt regulatory measures, including regulating:
- sales to minors
- places of use (not allowing in places where smoking is banned by law)
- advertising and promotion
- where e-cigarettes are sold
- addition of flavours and other ingredients
Support for Manitobans
Tobacco is a leading cause of cancer death in Manitoba. While the number of Manitobans using tobacco products has declined over time, the rate of decline has slowed and one-in-five Manitobans continues to smoke – one of the highest rates in Canada. The Cancer Society in Manitoba has a number of initiatives to reduce smoking and exposure to second hand smoke.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers’ Helpline and smokershelpline.ca supported 1,613 Manitobans who wanted information about and help to quit smoking last year. In 2011, the Cancer Society representatives also met with and persuaded the provincial government to cover the cost of Champix. Coverage of the proven effective smoking cessation drug was approved in 2012.
The Cancer Society also works in Manitoba to encourage smokers to quit and discourage people from starting in the first place. Research shows that a 10% increase on the price of cigarettes can result in a 4% reduction in the consumption of tobacco products. With the support of the Canadian Cancer Society, the provincial government has increased tobacco taxes every year for the last five. Tobacco taxes today are:
- Cigarettes - 25.0¢ ($50.00 per carton)
- Cigars - 75% of retail selling price (maximum tax $5.00 per cigar)
- Raw leaf tobacco - 22.5¢ per gram
- Fine cut tobacco and all other tobacco products - 24.0¢ per gram
Investing in tobacco control
Manitoba has historically had one of the lowest investments in tobacco control spending. In 2011 the Canadian Cancer Society convinced the government to promise to increase the amount it was investing to help Manitobans go tobacco free to 2% of tobacco taxes or about $5 million a year. This was agreed to after the Cancer Society pointed out that the government was collecting more than $250 million in tobacco taxes but spending less than $1 million to help people quit. Holding the provincial government to this promise will result in Manitoba moving from one of the lowest per capital funders of tobacco control in the country to one of the highest.
Reduce smoking in public places
In 2011 the Cancer Society engaged all municipalities in initiatives to expand smoking bans in public places. Having met with members of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities to discuss outdoor smoking and provided them with a template best-practices by-law, the Society was pleased when Stonewall became the first community to enact this bylaw in 2011.
In 2012, Winnipeg City Council passed a by-law banning smoking on or around outdoor sports venues, playgrounds and other children’s play structures. Later in the year, the Assiniboine Zoo also put in place a smoking ban in all public areas except in a specifically designated zone.