Advocates for a smoke-free British Columbia
January 21, 2018

Health coalition calls on province to take action on tobacco now

This National Non-Smoking Week (January 21-27), the Clean Air Coalition of BC is recommending ways the provincial government can take action to prevent youth from smoking, help those most heavily addicted, and address increasingly complex smoking patterns.
This National Non-Smoking Week (January 21-27), the Clean Air Coalition of BC is recommending ways the provincial government can take action to prevent youth from smoking, help those most heavily addicted, and address increasingly complex smoking patterns.
 
Diseases caused by tobacco cost BC more than any other preventable disease. Each year approximately 6,000 British Columbians die because of tobacco use or second-hand smoke exposure. That’s an average of 16 deaths every day in our province – more than from AIDS, street and prescribed drugs, alcohol, automobile accidents, suicide and homicide combined.
 
Working together as the Clean Air Coalition, the BC Lung Association, Heart & Stroke and Canadian Cancer Society want the government to know that tobacco use in BC is unacceptably high and that much illness and death can be prevented with stronger government action. Today, the coalition is presenting a comprehensive report to the provincial government outlining five strategies that could decrease BC’s tobacco rates:
 
1. Make it harder for youth to start tobacco use.
2. Make tobacco product retailers more accountable and products less available.
3. Ensure equal access to public clean-air spaces like parks, patios and beaches.
4. Maintain access to free, evidence-based smoking cessation programs.
5. Increase smoke-free options for the growing majority who live in multi-unit housing.
 
“Considering tobacco use kills half of those who use cigarettes, disables many more, and drains $2 billion from our health system annually in direct and indirect costs, governments are wise to push forward ever-tighter tobacco controls,” says Andrea Seale, BC and Yukon Executive Director, Canadian Cancer Society.
 
Given the deadly nature of cigarettes, jurisdictions around the world are creating more restrictions on where people can smoke, such as outdoors and in multi-unit dwellings, while exploring ways to address the easy access to tobacco products and even raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
 
“With approximately 525,000 tobacco users in the province, an increase in smoking or even rates staying stagnant is a threat too large to be ignored” says Adrienne Bakker, BC and Yukon CEO, Heart & Stroke.  “We are Canada’s fourth largest smoking population.”
 
The report also highlights new challenges: smoking patterns are becoming increasingly complex with new industry products, along with upcoming cannabis legalization. Both threaten to broaden the appeal of smoking and normalize the behaviour.
 
The coalition's report entitled First to 5% by 2035, outlines a vision for BC to be the first province to reach the federal government’s target of under 5% tobacco use by the year 2035. This aligns with the province’s current goal of reaching a 10% smoking rate by 2023.
 
“Former NDP governments have been bold on tobacco control in the past and taking action now is an opportunity to make critical change,” adds Christopher Lam, CEO, BC Lung Association.  “When cannabis is addressed this upcoming legislative session, it will be timely to tackle tobacco as well.”
 
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About the Clean Air Coalition of BC
The Heart and Stroke Foundation (BC & Yukon), the BC Lung Association and the Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon are committed to reducing tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke in BC. As partners in the Clean Air Coalition of BC, our goal is to build a greater understanding of the health hazards of second-hand smoke, generate support for smoke-free environments, and support tobacco-control related activities at both the local and provincial levels.
 
Media contact:
Jack Boomer
Director, Clean Air Coalition of BC
T 250 721 4268
Media Contacts
  • Jack Boomer
    Director, Clean Air Coalition of BC
    T 250 721 4268
    C 250 589 4268
    jackboomer@shaw.ca

    Katrina van Bylandt
    Director, Health Communications
    BC Lung Association
    T 604 731 5864
    vanbylandt@bc.lung.ca

    Jennifer Randall Nelson
    Manager, Communications
    T 778 372 8024
    jennifer.randallnelson
    @heartandstroke.ca