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TheRockies.Life Staff

Canada Considers Bold Health Proposal: No Cigs for Kids Born After ’08

Inspired by New Zealand, Canada is considering a lifetime ban on cigarette sales to young'uns to prevent 48,000 tobacco-related deaths each year, including 4,000 Albertans

In a bold move to combat nicotine addiction, Canadian health experts are advocating for a lifetime ban on cigarette sales to individuals born after 2008. 

This initiative, inspired by a policy from New Zealand, is now under consideration by the Canadian government.

Dr. Andrew Pipe, a researcher at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute who studies how people quit smoking, is the main person in charge of this effort.

In his view, emulating New Zealand’s policy could be a significant step towards preventing a new generation from nicotine addiction. 

“This is a perfect way to prevent the development of yet another generation of nicotine addicts,” Dr. Pipe stated, emphasizing the need for Health Canada and the Mental Health and Addictions Minister to consider this proposal seriously.

Tobacco, as Dr. Pipe highlighted, is the leading cause of disease, disability, and death in Canada, posing an “unbelievable burden” on the healthcare system. 

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says that every year, more than 4,000 Albertans die from tobacco use, and tens of thousands more Albertans have serious tobacco-related illnesses.

New Zealand Leading the Way

The New Zealand approach, introduced in 2021 under then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was academically reviewed and well-received among tobacco control circles. However, the policy faces uncertainty with the new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, who plans to repeal it.

Echoing Dr. Pipe’s sentiments, Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, stressed the importance of a similar approach in Canada. 

In her feedback on the federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, Dr. Etches advocated for the adoption of the Smoke-Free Generation Policy proposed by New Zealand. 

This policy aims to significantly reduce the smoking rate to 5 percent or less, limit nicotine levels in cigarettes, restrict retail sales, and ban post-2008-born individuals from purchasing cigarettes.

According to a study by the University of Waterloo, in 2020, about 8.9 percent of people in Alberta smoked. This is almost 1.5 percent lower than the average in Canada.

Smoking prevalence among Albertans from 1999 to 2020 | University of Waterloo

Support in Canada

Health Canada is currently analyzing submissions to draft a final report, with further input expected from Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks.

Support for the smoke-free generation policy also comes from the Canadian Cancer Society

Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst, stated that most Canadian smokers start in their preteen or teenage years. 

Implementing this policy in Canada, according to Cunningham, should include “all tobacco and vaping products” to address the rising trend of youth vaping.

The latest results from Health Canada‘s Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey found that almost 1 in 4 older Canadian high school students reported vaping in the past month.

Further enforceable rules are necessary to curb these trends, Cunningham adds. 

These include reducing retail locations for tobacco and vape sales and raising the minimum age for tobacco purchase to 21 nationwide, a measure already in place in Prince Edward Island.

The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, which currently prohibits sales to individuals under 18 (with some provincial variations), may see significant amendments following these consultations with Health Canada

Dr. Etches’s submission also calls for raising the federal minimum age for tobacco, nicotine, and vape product purchases to 21, excluding smoking-cessation products.

This proposal represents a growing global trend of adopting stringent measures to curb nicotine addiction, particularly among the youth. 

As Canada awaits the final report from Health Canada, the prospect of a smoke-free generation seems increasingly attainable.

Total percent of Canadian population smoking from 1999 to 2023 | Ibis World
Total percent of Canadian population smoking from 1999 to 2023 | Ibis World

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