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.
Tobacco control – what we’re fighting for right now
Implement plain packaging
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.
Reducing tobacco use in Saskatchewan
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.
Raise awareness of the cost of tobacco
There are many costs associated with tobacco use, including premature death and a wide range of illnesses and cancers. These health effects are physically and emotionally devastating to individuals, their families and loved ones. In an effort to help raise awareness about these cosets, the Society commissioned GPIAtlantic to calculate the cost of tobacco use to the Saskatchewan economy. Their report estimates the total cost is $1.1 billion annually.
Stop cancer before it starts
Smoking is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths. For each person who quits smoking or dies, the tobacco industry needs youth to become addicted. The tobacco industry has developed new tactics (flavours, menthol capsules, etc) to build a fresh customer base.
To combat this, Saskatchewan must adopt new legislation as other provinces have done. The provincial government also needs to increase funding for prevention and cessations programs.
Tell your MLA that Saskatchewan needs to make cancer prevention a priority by reducing smoking rates through legislation and programs.
Preventing cancer through healthy public policy
To help prevent cancer before it starts, Saskatchewan needs a comprehensive plan to reduce tobacco use in the province. Tobacco is responsible for 30 percent of all cancer deaths. More Saskatchewan residents die from lung cancer than any other cancer.
For most of the past decade, Saskatchewan has had the highest youth smoking rate in Canada. For every person who quits smoking or dies from their addiction, the tobacco industry needs to recruit new customers. To do that, tobacco companies have come up with ways to entice youth with candy and fruit flavoured tobacco, and menthol capsules which are embedded into the filters of cigarettes. Flavours mask the harsh taste of tobacco and make it easier for youth to experiment and become addicted.
To protect our youth from these deadly products and support people who are trying to quit, Saskatchewan needs to invest more money into tobacco reduction and adopt new legislation.
Ban all flavoured tobacco products to prevent youth from starting
- More than half of high school students who use tobacco are using flavoured products
- Five provinces have adopted legislation to ban flavoured tobacco products
- 81% of Saskatchewan residents support a ban on flavoured tobacco (Ipsos Reid, 2013)
Adopt regulations for electronic cigarettes to prevent youth from using them
- E-cigarettes are appealing to youth and young adult, with 1 out of 5 having used them at least once
- Currently there are no laws in Saskatchewan restricting a child from purchasing e-cigarettes
- There are no provincial laws restricting where e-cigarettes can be used support integration of those skilled workers into the system
Restrict smoking in outdoor places including on public patios, playgrounds and sportsfields
- Studies show that second-hand smoke (SHS) in certain outdoor settings is a health hazard.
- Restaurant and bar patios are workplaces, and staff should be protected
- Being exposed to smoking can normalize smoking which may lead to more youth to start smoking. For people trying to quit, even seeing people smoking or smelling it can cause relapse
Increase funding for tobacco reduction
- Saskatchewan collects approximately $275 million annually in tobacco taxes, but spends less than $500 thousand on programs to prevent youth from starting or to help people quit
- Saskatchewan spend 40 cents per capita on tobacco reduction, the lowest of any province in Canada The lack of investment in tobacco control is one of the reasons Saskatchewan has some the high smoking rates in Canada
Tobacco is a serious public health issue responsible for 1 out of 5 deaths in the province. Smoking rates in Saskatchewan have dropped as they have all over Canada, but we still has one of the highest youth smoking rates in the country. Until Saskatchewan makes tobacco control a greater priority through new laws and adequate funding, we will continue to see more sickness, death and increased healthcare costs.
Ban smoking in outdoor patios of restaurants and bars, on playgrounds and sports fields
Half of all cancers can be prevented by eating well, maintaining a healthy body weight and through healthy public policies which makes healthy choices easier.
- Second-hand smoke is a health hazard, even outdoors. Studies show that people can be exposed to almost as much second-hand smoke in outdoor places, like restaurant patios, as they are indoors where smoking is allowed.
- Outdoor smoking on restaurant patios is an unfair threat to workers’ health.
- Smoking has no place in areas where people gather outdoors, especially children - as it can compromise public health and safety, and it poses a threat to the environment.
Ban the sale of fruit and candy flavoured tobacco products
- More than half (55%) of Saskatchewan high school students who use tobacco are using flavoured products.
- Flavours such as grape and bubblegum mask the harsh taste of tobacco and make it easier for youth to experiment and become addicted.
- One out of 3 youth use menthol products compared to 1 out of 20 adult smokers.
- Five provinces have adopted legislation to ban flavoured tobacco, including menthol.
- A 2013 Ipsos Reid survey found that 81% of Saskatchewan residents support a ban on flavoured tobacco products.
Increase funding for tobacco reduction programs
- Tobacco use costs the Saskatchewan economy $1.1 billion annually.
- Despite our high smoking rates, Saskatchewan spends just 40 cents per capita on tobacco control compared to the national average of $3.65.
- The provincial government collects approximately $275 million in tobacco taxes, but spends less than $500,000 on tobacco reduction measures.
- Evidence shows that jurisdictions with well-funded tobacco control strategies are more successful at reducing smoking rates.
- The lack of investment in tobacco control measures is one of the reasons Saskatchewan continues to have one of the highest smoking rates in Canada.
- Political parties respond to our survey