Canadians have been trying to stamp out tobacco addiction for 50 years
It’s been 50 years since Canada’s former Minister of National Health and Welfare, Judy LaMarsh told the House of Commons that “smoking is a contributory cause of lung cancer.”
This statement marked the start of a decades-long anti-smoking campaign that continues across the country to this day.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Canadian Cancer Society health promotion team leader Patti King, noting that Canada made this declaration seven months ahead of the United States Surgeon General.
Today, 14 per cent of the province continues to smoke and the Canadian Cancer Society would like to see that number drop to 9 per cent by 2018.
“We’d like to see that in the single digits,” said King.
British Columbians have the lowest smoking rate in Canada, with the highest going to Quebec at 20 per cent, but regionally, the numbers vary.
According to the Interior Health Authority, 17 per cent of residents in their district smoke. While in the Kootenay Boundary, 15.9 per cent of the population were smokers as of a 2009 survey.
King says there are a variety of factors that make the numbers range.
“Some communities go above and beyond the provincial legislation,” she said.
In some municipalities, smoking has been banned in city parks, city playgrounds, beaches and other public places.
The Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon is pushing for some changes to bring the smoking rates down even further.
They’d like to see tobacco product taxes go up by Oct. 1 so that a carton of cigarettes costs $50 instead of $44.60. They also want more bans on outdoor patios and public spaces.
“BC is one of the last places to sell tobacco products in pharmacies,” said King, adding that limiting flavoured tobacco products is also on the list. “We find that the flavoured products have a broader appeal to younger generations.”
King said the society needs to jump start its plans since the percentage of smokers plateaued in 2007. They are going to work on both preventing new smokers from starting and helping current smokers kick the habit.
For those wanting to ditch the tobacco addiction, the Ministry of Health still has their B.C. Smoking Cessation Program, which started in 2011.
The program helps by providing prescription smoking cessation drugs and non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy like nicotine gum and patches.