Health groups focus on Saskatchewan’s high smoking rates during National Non Smoking Week

21 January 2019

Regina -

Coalition of organizations release report calling for government action

A long list of health organizations including the province's physicians, registered nurses and health charities are calling on the provincial government to take immediate action to address Saskatchewan's smoking rates, particularly among youth. Surveys consistently show that Saskatchewan has the highest youth smoking rates in Canada. The latest data, the 2017 Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drug Survey released in October, found that 22 percent of youth aged 15-19 are current smokers compared to 8 percent nationally.

Today the Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco Reduction released a report with a list of policy recommendations intended to reduce tobacco use and generate revenue for tobacco control enforcement and programs. It has been nearly a decade since the Saskatchewan government updated its Tobacco Control Act. Since then new issues have emerged including the growth of flavoured tobacco products, the introduction of e-cigarettes/vaping products and the proliferation of hookah lounges (water pipe cafes).

The Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) supports today’s release. “Doctors have come to know all too well the harmful effects that smoking of all kinds – tobacco included – has on the health of our patients,” says Dr. Siva Karunakaran, president of the SMA. “We see those negative effects every day, both the harm done to individuals and the cost borne by the health system to treat them.”As far back as 2015, the SMA adopted resolutions calling for a ban on smoking of all tobacco products (including shisha and hookah) in all indoor and outdoor public places, tighter controls around e-cigarettes to prevent their use by young people and a ban on all flavoured tobacco to discourage smoking among youth.

“Most other provinces as well as the federal government have modernized their tobacco laws to address issues such as vaping and flavoured tobacco. Saskatchewan has not despite growing public support for these measures and repeated calls from health groups. Our high smoking results are the result of our government’s inaction," says Donna Pasiechnik, Health Policy Analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society.

The new policy recommendations include:

  1. regulating the sale, promotion and use of vaping products as 8 other provinces have done;
  2. banning flavours in all tobacco products;
  3. banning smoking in more outdoor places 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;
  4. banning the sale of tobacco products in more locations, including athletic and recreational facilities, bars and restaurants, university/college campuses;
  5. banning all hookah (water pipe) smoking wherever smoking is banned in public places;
  6. 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

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 coalition’s recommendations include policies that would generate revenue to pay for tobacco education and 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. “The plan we have set out would not only reduce smoking rates but would provide the money needed to fund a provincial Tobacco Control Strategy by charging tobacco manufacturers and retailers a levy to sell this deadly consumer product,” says Jennifer May, Vice-President, Community Engagement for The Lung Association

This chart summarizes tobacco control legislation across Canada.

Tobacco control legislation across Canada

Notes for Table A

Smoke-free spaces

  • Quebec, effective Nov. 26, 2017: “Health and social services institutions must adopt a tobacco control policy geared to establishing a smoke-free environment and send it to the Minister. […]The policy must take into account the policy directions communicated by the Minister. The executive director of an institution or the person holding the equivalent position must report to the board of directors, or the equivalent, every two years on the application of the policy. The institution must send the report to the Minister within 60 days of filing it with the board of directors or the equivalent.” (TA, s.5.1)
  • PEI legislation bans smoking on hospital grounds but has an exemption for patients for one specified hospital (Hillsborough Hospital), where an outdoor smoking area is permitted (SFPA, s.8(4)).
  • Manitoba legislation bans smoking on playgrounds and beaches located within provincial parks. The City of Winnipeg, which is home to around 75% of Manitoba’s population, has banned smoking on playgrounds, sportsfields, patios and hospital grounds.

Sales ban at college/universities

  • In NWT, there is one college in the territory that has a voluntary policy to not sell tobacco products. There is no territorial legislation to this effect.

Tobacco retailer licences

  • In Alberta and Ontario, various municipalities require a licence with an annual fee for all tobacco retailers.

For more information, contact:

Jennifer May
Vice-President, Community Engagement
The Lung Association of Saskatchewan

Girard Hengen
Communications Advisor
Saskatchewan Medical Association

Donna Pasiechnik
Health Policy Analyst
Canadian Cancer Society

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