7th National Conference on Tobacco or Health Kicks Off in Toronto

Need for a New Canadian National Tobacco Control Strategy Highlights Agenda Again

TORONTO, Nov. 2, 2011 /CNW/ - More than 450 tobacco control professionals from across Canada are congregating over two days at the Marriott in downtown Toronto for the 7th National Conference on Tobacco or Health.  Delegates will be discussing important issues facing tobacco control in Canada, particularly the need for a new national strategy.

"At a time when renewal of the federal tobacco control strategy is in doubt, this gathering gives health advocates nationwide a chance to send a clear signal that federal leadership is needed if the epidemic is to be controlled," said Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco. "Given the billions of dollars tobacco use costs Canada every year, this critical preventive health care strategy must not fall victim to a narrow focus on one-dimensional across-the-board budget reductions."

The call for a renewed national strategy was echoed by public health professionals across the country.

"Tobacco is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke," says Bobbe Wood, President of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. "To counter the tobacco industry's new and novel ways of selling its products, the time is now for a comprehensive, robust and well-funded Federal Tobacco Control Strategy to help ensure the heart-health of Canadians."

"We believe that the renewal of the federal tobacco control strategy is an opportunity to further strengthen tobacco control in Canada," said Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "A revised approach that learns from the successes and failures of past decades will help the millions of Canadians who wish to quit smoking, and will protect them and others from tobacco industry attempts to undermine public health measures."

"To deal with the tobacco epidemic, one has to understand how and where it is spreading.  Considerable resources are required to monitor tobacco use and regulate tobacco products," said Flory Doucas, co-director of the Quebec Coalition on Tobacco Control. "The federal government should guarantee adequate tobacco use survaillance and product regulation to all provinces and territories while not preventing jurisdictions from doing more. The interventions of provinces should be seen as synergetic and complementary to the federal strategy, not as its replacement."

"Despite significant progress over the past two decades, tobacco is still the number one cause of preventable disease and death in Canada, exacting a staggering cost on the economy of some 17 billion dollars a year," said Lorraine Fry, executive director of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association. "The burden of disease, the annual death toll, and the costs imposed on the health care system, employees and families can be substantially reduced through the renewal and implementation of a comprehensive Federal Tobacco Control Strategy, with adequate and sustained funding."

"It is essential that Health Canada do everything it can to fight the tobacco epidemic," said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.  "Sustained action by Health Canada is pivotal given that tobacco products kill 37,000 Canadians each year, and given that the national smoking rate of 17 per cent remains unacceptably high.  We need to drive smoking rates down as fast as possible, by as much as possible.  We need to treat the tobacco epidemic like an epidemic."

"The Canadian Lung Association strongly supports long-term renewal of the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy," said Christopher Wilson, director of public affairs and advocacy for the Canadian Lung Association. "Its continuation is essential to reduce the heavy health and economic toll of smoking - the primary cause of both lung cancer and COPD and a significant contributor to the increased prevalence and severity of asthma."

"This is a crucial time for tobacco control in Canada" said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health.  "The federal government has played an essential role in reducing tobacco use in Canada and it must continue to support the federal tobacco control strategy by renewing its ongoing funding commitment.  Tobacco use remains the leading avoidable cause of premature death in Canada and the federal government's contribution should not be subject to political debate."

"Provincial tobacco reduction strategies need to be complemented by a strong, properly funded and well supported Federal Tobacco Control Strategy if we are to continue to lower the smoking rates in each province and the country as a whole," said Kevin Coady of the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco (ACT). "Tobacco is not done. There is no time for complacency. The tobacco industry continues to do business as usual, and Canada has to be prepared to address this."

The conference kicks off at 9:00 a.m. this morning and concludes on November 3 at 5:00 p.m.

SOURCE 7th National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTH)

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