A national smoking survey just released by Statistics Canada shows that for the ninth year in a row Saskatchewan has the highest youth smoking rate in the country.
According to the 2011 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS), 20 per cent of youth aged 15 to 19 smoke compared to the national average of 12 per cent.
“Our youth smoking rates stick out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of country and are well above the national average of 12 per cent. It’s very troubling and painfully clear that we’re not doing enough to tackle this serious health issue,” said Donna Pasiechnik, Manager of Tobacco Control for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Health groups have been calling on the Saskatchewan government to re-invest in the province’s tobacco control strategy which was drastically reduced in the 2012-13 provincial budget. “This year provincial tobacco taxes are expected to generate $247 million yet the government is only less than half of a per cent on tobacco reduction. If we’re serious about tackling our high smoking rates, we need to invest in all areas of tobacco control,” said Jennifer Miller, Vice-President of Health Education for the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.
In addition to funding more prevention and quit smoking programs and social marketing campaigns, the province should ban all flavoured tobacco products including smokeless tobacco. Flavoured tobacco can act as a starter product by making the harshness of tobacco more palatable for young users.
“We know from surveys that Saskatchewan and Alberta have the highest rates of smokeless tobacco use and are using flavoured tobacco products more than the national average. We believe banning the sale of those products would significantly reduce youth uptake and the legislation in Saskatchewan makes it easy to do so,” stated Rhae Ann Bromley, Director of Communications for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan.
The province should also ban smoking on outdoor patios of restaurants and bars as the City of Saskatoon and four other provinces/territories have done (Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon). It should ban the sale of tobacco on university and college campuses, in bars and restaurants, and in athletic and recreational facilities.
“We’re anxious to work with Dustin Duncan, our new Minister of Health, to develop strategies to reduce our high smoking rates and improve the health of all Saskatchewan residents,” added Miller.
For more details on the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/research-recherche/stat/_ctums-esutc_2011/ann-eng.php