U.K. the latest country looking to phase out smoking. Should Canada do the same? – National | Globalnews.ca
With the United Kingdom the latest country to propose banning younger generations from ever buying cigarettes, some say it’s something Canada should consider, but it cannot be the only measure taken to effectively combat smoking and tobacco use.
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced planned legislation that would see the smoking age rise by one year, every year, with the goal of potentially phasing out smoking among young people almost completely as soon as 2040.
If passed, the U.K. would be the first country in Europe to join New Zealand in banning smoking for future generations. Academics have said increases in the smoking age have successfully reduced smoking rates among young people globally.
Rob Cunningham with the Canadian Cancer Society, which lobbies federally for better research, health care and protections, said such a move needs to be one piece of a multi-step plan.
“The approaches of the United Kingdom and New Zealand are innovative. The overwhelming majority of smokers began as underage youth; it’s something we can implement in Canada,” he said.
But it can’t end there, Cunningham said: “It’s not going to be one measure, we need multiple measures.”
Geoffrey Fong, a University of Waterloo professor of psychology and public health sciences, agrees that multiple measures should be taken and the “smoke-free generation” option is one. However, he pointed to New Zealand’s “extraordinary” smoke-free plan, which includes targeting nicotine.
U.K. proposes cigarette ban that would phase out smoking by 2040
New Zealand’s legislation bans sales of cigarettes to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009, with a yearly increase to the smoking age. That legislation also means that by 2050, 40-year-olds would be too young to buy cigarettes.
Part of the package of regulations voted on last December by lawmakers was reducing the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco products to “non-addictive levels.”
Fong, who is also the founder and chief principal investigator of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, said this factor can have a big impact.
“If you remove the nicotine or, rather, reduce it to non-addictive levels, the appeal of it and the requirement to go back to it because you’re addicted will be cut off,” he told Global News. “And so youth, hardly any youth will start smoking and they won’t continue smoking.”
Clinical trials, including two in Addiction and the New England Journal of Medicine, have suggested those who switched to cigarettes with a very low nicotine content showed reduced nicotine exposure, smoking rate and dependence on the chemical, as well as increased cessation rates.
As of this month, the federal government is not currently pursuing a plan to raise the smoking age. But in a statement to Global News, a Health Canada spokesperson highlighted Canada’s Tobacco Strategy as how it is addressing tobacco use in the country, with its goal of achieving the target of less than five per cent tobacco use by 2035.
U.K. proposes harsh smoking restrictions, is Canada next?
According to recent data from the World Health Organization, more than eight million people die from tobacco every year and Health Canada reports that tobacco use kills approximately 46,000 Canadians per year.
Statistics Canada data from 2021 shows about 12 per cent of the population over the age of 12 — approximately 3.8 million — still smoke cigarettes. It also shows more than 60 per cent of Canadians have never smoked.
Another approximately 22 per cent classify themselves as former smokers. According to the survey, this is defined as those who said they had not smoked in the past 30 days from when the question was asked, but answered “yes” to having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lives.
Nicotine reduction is also not a part of the strategy, though it does look to give information on and access to less harmful sources of nicotine and help Canadians who smoke to quit or reduce the harms of their addiction to nicotine.
Though Canada is not currently pursuing similar legislation to the U.K. and New Zealand, Health Minister Mark Holland told reporters last Thursday they are looking at what other jurisdictions are doing and would look “at the evidence from that to inform our best decisions,” adding that the government was continuing to look at potential cessation methods.
“Cessation efforts are absolutely critical and in partnership with provinces and territories, with the not-for-profit sector, with pharmacies, doctors, nurses, the efforts on cessation have really been remarkable,” he said.
Almost half of Canada’s young adults have tried vaping: StatCan
Canada a leader in cigarette warnings
As more measures are considered, Canada became the first country in the world to have a policy requiring warnings about cigarettes on each individual stick.
U.S. releases photos, videos showing rise in ‘risky’ Chinese air intercepts
Joran van der Sloot confesses to killing U.S. teen Natalee Holloway
Manufacturers have until the end of July 2024 to ensure the warnings are on all king-size cigarettes sold, with regular-size cigarettes and little cigars with tipping paper and tubes by the end of April 2025.
Blunt statements, including “tobacco smoke harms children” and “cigarettes cause cancer,” will be among the first six messages to appear.
The move added to what Canada already had in place for years with warning labels and graphic images on product packaging, and since the late 2000s, banning the display of the products in most convenience stores.
Cunningham said he believes the measures should go further, referencing New Zealand’s rules reducing the number of stores legally able to sell the product to one-tenth its amount — to 600 from 6,000 nationwide.
“We don’t need a convenience store essentially on every block selling tobacco,” he said. “That makes it seem like an everyday normal product when it’s a lethal, addictive drug delivery product.”
Health Canada told Global News that in addition to its tobacco strategy, the agency is also conducting its second legislative review of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, which regulates the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco and vaping products sold in the country.
As part of this review, public consultations are taking place until Nov. 3, with Canadians being able to weigh in to “provide their perspectives and evidence they may have to support their input” on various topics, including restricting youth access, the country’s tobacco landscape and compliance, enforcement and regulated parties.
“We hope that Canadians will take the opportunity to participate in the second legislative review of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act to share their thoughts on what is working, what is not, and what new or innovative ideas can be considered going forward,” senior media relations advisor Tammy Jarbeau wrote.
Some provinces are already taking further steps on cigarette smoking, with Prince Edward Island raising its smoking age to 21 in 2020, and British Columbia’s health minister showing interest in the age restrictions proposed by the U.K. and New Zealand.
“There’s more to be done and I’m open to all ideas on how to reduce it,” Adrian Dix told Global News earlier this month after the U.K. proposal was made public, though he made no firm commitments.
Health Canada sets the national smoking age, but provinces and territories can set their own restrictions.
B.C. entertaining complete smoking ban
Meanwhile, some warn that further restrictions on tobacco products could prompt the illegal trade to grow.
Eric Gagnon with Imperial Tobacco Canada, a cigarette manufacturing company, said “banning the product” would only bolster the “imported contraband problem.”
“There’s probably some adults that want to purchase cigarettes so they’ll probably buy them on the illegal front,” Gagnon, the company’s vice-president of legal and external affairs, said.
“For the same reason that the government of Canada legalized cannabis because they said that prohibition doesn’t work and they wanted to take cannabis out of the hands of criminal organizations and protect youth — for the same reason I don’t think that prohibiting cigarettes would be a good idea,” Gagnon said.
He notes that any youth who do smoke are already getting their cigarettes illegally.
While Fong agreed cessation is important to tobacco control, he said it’s still only one part.
“It’s not an either-or, it’s not like, ‘Oh, don’t do smoke-free generation, do cessation instead,” he explained. “They address different parts.”
— with files from Reuters and Global News’ Kathryn Mannie
For all the latest health News Click Here