Action needed to address high youth smoking rates
Saskatchewan has the highest youth smoking rates in Canada but has it has been nearly a decade since the provincial government updated its Tobacco Control Act. In January 2019 health organizations released a joint report calling on the provincial government to adopt new policies to reduce smoking rates. They include:
- regulating the sale, promotion and use of vaping products as 8 other provinces have done
- banning flavours in all tobacco products;
- banning smoking in more outdoor including patios of bars and restaurants, playgrounds and sports fields as several municipalities have done including Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, Warman, Martensville, Battleford, Maidstone, and Rosthern;
- banning the sale of tobacco products in more locations, including athletic and recreational facilities, bars and restaurants, university/college campuses;
- banning all hookah (water pipe) smoking wherever smoking is banned in public places;
- increasing the age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21 – or at the very least 19 as is required to purchase cannabis or alcohol
Increase Funding for Tobacco Control Strategy
Saskatchewan spends the lowest amount per capita on tobacco control of any province, approximately 35 cents per capita compared to the national average of $1.04.
Some of the recommendations in the report Protecting our Future include policies that would generate revenue to pay for tobacco reduction programs and policy enforcement. They include increasing taxes on all tobacco products, requiring tobacco retailers to have a licence with an annual fee as alcohol and cannabis retailers have, and implement a cost recovery fee on tobacco manufacturers/suppliers based on market share in the province. This could reimburse the Saskatchewan government for the annual costs of the provincial tobacco control strategy.
Saskatchewan Government gets a D+ for tobacco control efforts
Saskatchewan’s leading health advocates have given the Saskatchewan government a ‘D+’ overall for its listless efforts to protect the public from the harms of tobacco, he leading preventable cause of disease and death in the province.
The report card and accompanying analysis, conducted by an independent tobacco control consultant, grades the government’s actions on 10 key recommendations made by the health groups since 2009. The topics in the report range from tobacco control funding to the need to prevent youth from smoking by banning menthol and candy-flavoured tobacco products. Saskatchewan is far behind the rest of the country.