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.