Saskatchewan teens smoking at nearly three times rate of Canadian youth
The Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS) 2017 results show that 22 per cent of Saskatchewan teens (15-19) are smoking compared to eight per cent nationwide.
With tobacco use being the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the country, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is calling on the Saskatchewan government to take bold and immediate action to save lives.
“These numbers are shocking and reveal the urgent need for interventions to prevent youth and teens from becoming addicted to smoking,” says Donna Pasiechnik, Health Policy Analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan. “For nearly a decade we have been calling on the Saskatchewan government to update tobacco control laws to keep up with emerging issues such as flavoured tobacco products, e-cigarettes and smoke-free places – measures that most provinces have in place. The alarming number of teens smoking shows that this needs to be a priority for our government in Saskatchewan now.”
Polling commissioned by health groups consistently shows strong support to ramp up efforts to reduce tobacco use in the province, including 75 per cent of the public who are in favour of smoke-free outdoor patios. Several municipalities in the province including Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert have shown leadership by adopting bylaws that ban smoking, vaping and the use of cannabis in most public places. The federal government has also passed legislation to ban most flavoured tobacco products, regulate e-cigarettes and to require plain packaging on all tobacco products.
“Tobacco use places a significant burden on our over-burdened healthcare system,” adds Pasiechnik. “We know the vast majority of smokers begin smoking by adolescence or young adulthood so if we can curb tobacco use at that age, we can not only alleviate the burden it puts on our healthcare system but help Canadians live long and healthy lives.”
In August the provincial government banned smoking and the use of e-cigarettes and cannabis in all social housing units, an important policy that will protect the health of families and children. But there are many other measures CCS has been recommending that would help strengthen Saskatchewan’s tobacco control policies and go a long way to improving the health of those living in the province.
In November 2015, health groups issued a tobacco control report card and gave the provincial government a D+ for its lack of efforts to tackle Saskatchewan’s tobacco problem. A 2009 study found that tobacco costs the Saskatchewan economy $1.1 billion annually and kills more than 1,500 people in the province every year.
The survey, conducted by Statistics Canada on behalf of Health Canada, also found the overall smoking rate for Saskatchewan people aged 15+ is 18 per cent compared to 15 per cent nationally.