Saskatchewan teens smok­ing at nearly three times rate of Cana­dian youth

The Southwest Booster - - OPINION - CANA­DIAN CAN­CER SO­CI­ETY

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.

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