Where provincial action lags (looking at you, Saskatchewan), municipalities step up to regulate smoking.
In Canada, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death – still. It’s a public health issue that requires the attention of federal, provincial and municipal leaders.
Some governments have shown leadership by banning smoking on patios of restaurants and bars and in outdoor spaces where children play, banning flavoured tobacco, regulating the sales, marketing and use of e-cigarettes, and increasing supports for those trying to quit.
But the struggle to safeguard the health of our kids is far from over in some provinces.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is actively working with governments and community groups to support changes that will make our communities healthier places to live, work and play.
In Saskatchewan, this work is critical. We have had the highest youth smoking rates in Canada for more than a decade (and our adult smoking rates remain much higher than the national average). Yet our provincial legislation in tobacco control still sadly lags behind.
We know from public opinion polling that the majority of Saskatchewan people support more smoke-free public places. So rather than wait for provincial direction, some municipalities have stepped up to create change.
Cities take the lead
Back in 2004, Saskatoon became the province’s first community to prohibit smoking on outdoor patios of restaurants and bars.
At the time, that move was cutting edge public health policy, and one with tremendous impact. A landmark report in 2013 comparing cancer risk profiles showed that Saskatoon had the lowest rate of second-hand smoke exposure of the 26 cities studied, while Regina, our provincial capital, came in 16th (Regina still has no bylaw restricting smoking in outdoor spaces.)
Since then, Warman and Martensville became the first Saskatchewan communities to protect citizens and workers from second-hand smoke in parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and outdoor patios of restaurants and bars. Even more, they prohibited the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces where smoking is banned.
Last week, Saskatoon followed suit and voted to extend the smoking ban to all city-operated outdoor spaces, including parks, playgrounds and sports fields, and also prohibited e-cigarette use in public places where smoking is banned.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation worked closely with municipal councils to enact these changes, along with our partners, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Lung Association of Saskatchewan and the Saskatoon Health Region. And we’re delighted to see this leadership from municipal governments.
Tobacco harm is a threat to all of us
Second-hand smoke is extremely toxic. The World Health Organization has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke – even an occasional cigarette or exposure to second-hand smoke is harmful. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases.
Here in Saskatchewan, we continue to urge our provincial and municipal governments to take action to protect the health of our children and youth, and hope the leadership of Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville, and that of other provinces and territories, will move them to action.
This work is just one part of a massive advocacy effort over more than 50 years by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The years of provincial advocacy have paid off with legislative action:
- Six provinces (Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Alberta and PEI) have taken action or committed to banning flavoured tobacco;
- Another seven provinces (British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia) have taken action or committed to regulating e-cigarettes;
- Seven provinces or territories (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Yukon) have broadly addressed smoke-free outdoor spaces regulations.
The Foundation is also working at the federal level with its partners in the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco to press for legislation and regulations pertaining to tobacco-related pricing, labelling, product regulation (including e-cigarettes and flavoured tobacco), plain and standardized packaging, advertising and sponsorship.
Help us protect more Canadians from the dangers of tobacco. Donate to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, or contact your local office to find out how you can get involved.