Tobacco: Action Needed - Health Canada should consider Australia's work and adopt new measures to reduce smoking

OTTAWA, Jan. 21, 2013 /CNW/ - On the occasion of National Non Smoking Week, Canadian health agencies working together through the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco (CCAT) are encouraging more action on tobacco control in Canada.

"We need to treat the tobacco epidemic like an epidemic," explained Rob Cunningham, senior policy advisor with the Canadian Cancer Society. "Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada, and we need sustained federal government action in response. Other countries are looking at new ways to protect their citizens from tobacco-related disease."

"The government previously set a goal to reduce the number of people who smoke to 1 in 8 Canadians," said Robert Walsh, Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control. "We believe that achieving this goal of 12% smoking prevalence should be a government priority, and that there are effective measures that this government can put in place that will make this happen.

"Meeting the government's goal for smoking rates will help avert thousands of preventable deaths from heart disease, cancer and lung disease," said Bobbe Wood, President of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Health Canada reports that tobacco use is responsible for 37,000 deaths annually.

"Australia is looking at new options to address tobacco use, and Canada should do so too," said Lorraine Fry, Executive Director of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association. Australia, which has a similar history of tobacco use as Canada, has just launched a new strategy with the 2018 goal of reducing daily smoking rates to 10% in the general population and reducing aboriginal smoking rates by half. Ms. Fry praised Australia's work on tax levels, plain packaging, more complete bans on promotion, mass media campaigns and support for quitting.

"We urge Health Minister Aglukkaq to bring forward a ban on all flavoured tobacco products to respond to the candy and fruit flavoured products that remain on the market," said Cynthia Callard, Executive Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "The renewed health warnings should be applied to all tobacco products, and not only cigarettes and some small cigars as required by the recent regulations.

These health organizations urge Health Canada to take steps towards the implementation of plain packaging, following Australia's lead.  The new picture health warnings required as of June 2012 are a very positive measure, but additional measures are needed to drive smoking rates down as fast as possible.

The member organizations of the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco are offering their support to Minister Leona Aglukkaq in implementing the steps necessary to reduce smoking rates to the 12% prevalence goal adopted by the Harper government in 2007.

Member organizations of the Canadian Coalition for Tobacco Control are Action on Smoking and Health, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

Backgrounder:

Comparison of tobacco control measures in Canada and Australia
http://www.smoke-free.ca/pdf_1/2013/backgrounder-jan212013.pdf

SOURCE: Physicians for Smoke-Free Canada

For further information:

Contact:

Robert Walsh, Canadian Council for Tobacco Control: 613 567 3050 x 107

Rob Cunningham, Canadian Cancer Society: 613 565 2522 x 4981

Lucie Boileau, Canadian Medical Association: 613 731 8610 x 1266

Flory Doucas, Coalition québécoise pour le contrôle du tabac: 514 598 5533

JD Fraser, Heart and Stroke Foundation - 613 569-4361, ext 273

Lorraine Fry, Non Smokers' Rights Association: 416 928 2900

Michael Perley, the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco: 416 340 2992

Neil Collishaw, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada: 613 233 4878