Tobacco-free fight making important headway

Tuesday, Jun 12, 2012 11:00 am | Dan Singleton

With the Redford government recently announcing it is suing tobacco companies for $10 billion to recover health-care costs associated with tobacco use, the findings of a new national survey of youth smoking habits highlight the benefits of early intervention.

At the same time the federal government’s new ‘Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act’, which strengthens the anti-tobacco effort by targeting merchant violators, also appears to be making a difference.

It is encouraging to see this combination of legal action, government legislation, and public awareness campaigns starting to make significant inroads in the youth tobacco battle.

Yet it is probably over-optimistic to think the end of the war against youth tobacco use is in sight – meaning tobacco-free efforts will need to continue without let-up in this long, drawn out battle for the health and welfare of Canadian children and teens.

The recent Youth Smoking Survey conducted for Health Canada found that only three per cent of Canadian Grade 6 to 12 students now smoke every day, compared with four per cent in 2009.

As well, nearly three-quarters of youths in Grades 6 - 12 said they have never tried smoking a cigarette, not even a puff, a significant increase from 67 per cent in 2008 - 2009.

And among younger students, just two per cent of those in Grades 6 - 9 smoked daily or occasionally, the lowest smoking rate recorded by the survey since it began 18 years ago.

“After seeing smoking rates hit historic lows in Canada recently, these new statistics are encouraging," said federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

With thousands of people of all ages making a concerted effort these days to keep young people smoke free it certainly is encouraging to see these positive results starting to come in.

And this downward trend in youth smoking is probably a result, at least in part, of the combination of increased public awareness of tobacco dangers, new legislation and new legal action.

Making sure young people don’t start smoking in the first place is the best and most effective way to reduce the many, many health problems that come with long-term smoking in later life.

The bottom line is for every young person who never becomes a smoker, it could very well mean one less sick adult burdening the health-care system down the road.

So while it’s not yet possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the war to eliminate youth smoking in Alberta and across Canada, the many good people involved in the current efforts should be applauded as the community champions they are.


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