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Tobacco control – what we’re fighting for right now
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. Plain packaging will come into force in Canada November 9, 2019 at the manufacturer level, and February 7, 2020 at the retail level. Canada will have the best plain packaging regulations in the world. Australia became the first country to implement plain packaging in 2012, followed by the United Kingdom and France in 2016, and Norway and Ireland in 2017.
Implement an annual cost recovery fee on the tobacco industry
The tobacco industry has caused the tobacco epidemic and should pay for government costs to respond to the epidemic. This is based on the polluter pays principle and holding the tobacco industry accountable. In the US, the FDA has implemented a cost recovery fee on the tobacco industry since 2009, with fees allocated based on market share to recover the FDA’s annual tobacco budget of US$712 million.
In Canada, the federal government has implemented a strengthened federal tobacco control strategy with an annual budget of about $60 million. A cost recovery fee would thus generate $60 million in incremental annual government revenue, which could be used for other government priorities. The federal government is already implementing a cost recovery fee for the cannabis industry.
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.
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 Petitpas Taylor 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. Health Minister Petitpas Taylor should bring forward a regulation to ban flavours in all tobacco products, following the example of an increasing number of provinces and building on existing federal regulations including the ban on menthol cigarettes effective October 2, 2017.
100% smoke-free university and college campuses
In Canada, there is tremendous momentum towards making university and college campuses 100% smoke-free, including outdoors. Policies for 100% smoke free campuses not only provide protection from second-hand smoke, but also discourage tobacco use among youth. A large proportion of campus policies also apply to smoking of anything, including cannabis, as well as use of e-cigarettes and any tobacco product. Read more in University and College 100% Smoke-Free Campuses in Canada: National Status Report.
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.