We’ve spent a lot of money trying to eradicate smoking with limited success, so it’s about time we put our dollars elsewhere
By MICHAEL PLATT
Smoking was supposed to go the way of eight-track tapes and rotary phones.
Like asbestos and lead paint, cigarettes were destined to join the list of health hazards tutted at by future generations, wise in ways we reckless fools were not.
It’s why federal and provincial governments have spent millions of tax dollars on a campaign to gradually grind cigarettes into the history books, with a pink-lunged generation of tobacco teetotallers just over the horizon.
So healthy, so promising — except the future generation isn’t quitting.
Indeed, as Health Canada’s most recent survey on tobacco use shows, cigarette use isn’t declining at all and has remained stagnant for three years. One-in-five Canadians smoked in 2005 and one-in- five Canadians smoke now.
In Alberta, 21% of citizens 15 and older are smokers, with the lowest national percentage, 14%, just to our west in B.C., and the highest, 24%, just to our east in Saskatchewan.
All indications suggest there will be one-in-five Canadians smoking three years from now, too — the survey shows the number of teens who smoke regularly isn’t dropping, either.
The news has anti-smoking advocates gasping and it’s worse than they admit.
Despite countless laws, bylaws, campaigns and bans, the number of people smoking in Canada hasn’t really changed since 2001, when 22% of Canadians aged 15 and older qualified as smokers.
“We are very concerned,” said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.
“We should be seeing a decline and we’re not.”
The anti-smoking experts blame cheap, contraband cigarettes in the East, obtained from First Nation sources, for fuelling an appetite for tobacco.
In the West, particularly Alberta, they blame a high disposable income for countering increased cigarette prices.
“The Alberta government should move swiftly to increase tobacco taxes,” said Cunningham.
The anti-smoking lobby is also calling for increased campaigns warning of the dangers of smoking, because higher prices, tougher laws and more education are the key to reducing the number of tobacco users, or so they say.
But wait — aren’t smokes already $10 a pack in Alberta, plastered in dire warnings and revolting photos of dissected and diseased organs?
Don’t Albertans already pay $2.75 per capita to fund more than $8 million in tobacco reduction strategies?
And aren’t smokers already social pariahs, pushed to the gutter by anti-smoking laws?
It isn’t working, clearly.
And clearly it makes no sense to keep spending money and raising taxes.
It’s obvious some people will smoke, no matter how inconvenient or how disgusting the photographs.
As for claiming high wages are the root of the evil, the logical evidence would be fewer smokers in communities with little cash to spare — yet the opposite is true, according to studies comparing smoking to income.
Contraband cigarettes may be an issue in Ontario, but there are few illegal butts to be found in the West and we’re still puffing away at a pace to match our eastern kin.
Price isn’t the issue, either.
The problem is addiction.
Adults who are addicted are going to keep smoking despite price, health concerns and hassle from bylaws and the anti-smoking majority.
Any grown-up capable of quitting has already done so — and the money spent trying to convince the rest is a total waste, better invested elsewhere.
If we must spend money, spend it on law enforcement aimed at keeping cigarettes out of the hands of teens — those who aren’t addicted, but don’t have the mature sense to steer clear of cigarettes.
Make a pack of smokes as hard to obtain as alcohol, and make cigarettes illegal for minors to possess.
And then enforce the laws with draconian severity.
The only way Canada is going to see a further reduction in smoking is to nip the problem in the bud, before it can blossom into a full-blown addiction that can’t be cured, at any cost.
Sask. tops national smoking average
Published: Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Casey MacLeod, Leader-Post
For the third year in a row Saskatchewan is the province with the highest rate of smokers in the country, according to a Statistics Canada survey.
Nationally, 19 per cent of the population is classified as current smokers, with Saskatchewan topping the list at 24 per cent and British Columbia coming in below average at just over 14 per cent.
“These numbers are very troubling and should be troubling to everyone who lives in this province,” said Donna Pasiechnik, tobacco control co-ordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society.
“It’s clear that tobacco is a big problem here and it’s getting bigger. It’s time that we acknowledge its cost to our health and to our economy. It’s time we put measures in place to reduce smoking rates here.”
Saskatchewan also has the highest percentage of youth (ages 15 to 19) who smoke in the country at 22 per cent, well above the national average of 15.2 per cent.
“Why are we allowing kids to slip out at recess and have a cigarette?” said Pasiechnik. “I think price is (also) key. I think the higher the price of tobacco, the less likely young people will take it up because it becomes too costly.”
Lucy Buller, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan, said part of the problem is a lack of a comprehensive tobacco control plan from the provincial government.
“There is no plan to help prevent youth from starting smoking or to help people to quit smoking or to prevent cheap cigarettes from flooding the market,” she said.
“Until we have a plan put together, and really attach some dollars and some focus to it, we’re going to continue to experience this. The amount of tax-free tobacco being sold in this province has really increased over the years. Cheap tobacco encourages people to start smoking and it doesn’t do anything to encourage them to quit.”
Pasiechnik agreed that the availability of cheap tobacco products is a large part of the problem in Saskatchewan.
“A big chunk of our population has access to incredibly cheap tobacco — that is a legal right, obviously — but we’re concerned, because of the volume we’re seeing, that some of that is getting out and being sold illegally to non-First Nations people,” she explained.
Despite the high smoking rate in the province, there is some reassuring news.
“Our rates have been stable for the past two to three years and there have not been significant increases over time,” said Raquel Digness, a senior policy analyst with the Ministry of Health.
“We still have high smoking rates though, and we are committed to sustaining our efforts to address this issue.”
Both Buller and Pasiechnik said it’s up to the provincial government to not only put a tobacco control plan in place that’s on par with that of other provinces, but also to fill the void in anti-smoking campaigns that was created when the federal government cut its mass-media program.
“I don’t think the message is getting out in Saskatchewan and part of that is we don’t have any anti-smoking campaigns in the airwaves to educate people,” pointed out Pasiechnik.
“I think we’ve been a bit complacent in this province over the last few years about tobacco control. We passed a smoking ban back in 2004. Everyone has moved on and passed smoking bans and have gone even further by restricting smoking, (so) all the other provinces have surpassed us.”
Buller also said the community needs to play a role in pushing the government to move forward with its stance on tobacco control.
Canadians still love to light up, says StatsCan survey
Published: Monday, August 25, 2008
Linda Nguyen ,? Canwest News Service
OTTAWA – The number of Canadians lighting up cigarettes has remained stable for the past three years, according to a national survey on tobacco use, released Monday.?
Results of the Statistics Canada survey found that one in five Canadians reported smoking either every day or occasionally in 2007, the same proportion as in 2005 and in 2006.
This trend is very troubling because analysts had predicted the rate was going to decline, the Canadian Cancer Society said Monday.
“We’re very concerned by these results,” said Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the non-profit organization in Ottawa. “The reason the smoking rate stopped going down is because of the serious contraband situation. It’s completely undermining the progress we’d otherwise be seeing in reduced smoking.”
On the black market, a carton of 200 contraband cigarettes can sell for as low as $6. The same amount in a convenience store can cost $70, Cunningham said.
British Columbia had the lowest rate of smokers in the country, while Saskatchewan had the highest rate for the second year in a row, the agency said in a news release.
Fourteen per cent of Canadian households reported having at least one person in their home smoking every day or almost every day, the survey found.
In general, 42 per cent of Canadians who have a smoker in their homes or who allowed people to smoke in their homes said they place restrictions on taking a puff inside.
Cunningham said this is a step in the right direction.
“There is an increase in public awareness of the effects of second-hand smoke. More and more homes are being made smoke-free, even those with smokers,” he said.
In 2005, 18 per cent of those in the 15 to 19 age group said they were smokers. That rate dropped to 15 per cent in 2006 and remained stable in 2007, the survey said.
For those in the 20 to 24 age group, 26 per cent identified themselves as smokers in 2005. The following year, that proportion increased to 27 per cent. In 2007, that number decreased again to 25 per cent.
Read More:? Mortality and profits are maintained Page 1