Recently, TimesColonist reported that Canadian health experts are urging the federal government to implement a lifelong ban on the sale of tobacco products for all people born after 2008. This proposal comes from a policy in New Zealand that is about to be shelved by the country's new prime minister.
Andrew Pipe, a clinical scientist at the Ottawa Heart Institute who specializes in smoking cessation, said New Zealand's policy deserves further study by Health Canada and the minister of mental health and addiction. Dr. Pipe said in an interview, "This is a perfect way to prevent another generation from becoming nicotine addicts, which is something that both the minister and Health Canada need to consider carefully." He further pointed out that tobacco remains Canada's top disease , disability and causes of death, representing an “incredible burden” on the healthcare system.
The approach proposed by the New Zealand government in 2021 was well thought out and subject to academic scrutiny, and Dr Pipe said many people interested in tobacco control had welcomed the approach introduced by then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government. policy. However, new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, whose coalition government came to power after last autumn's election, said his government would repeal these tobacco policies before they come into effect.
Dr. Pipe said the UK is considering introducing a similar approach to that announced in New Zealand, and he expressed "cautious optimism" that Ottawa Public Health's submission could be adopted in Canada. He said it's a viable, pragmatic way to make a difference in the lives of young Canadians.
Ottawa's medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, provided feedback on the federal tobacco and vaping product laws in November as part of a public consultation on possible amendments. This law regulates the manufacture, sale, labeling and promotion of tobacco and e-cigarette products for sale in Canada. In her submission, Dr. Etches said Canada should introduce a Smoke-Free Generation policy similar to that proposed by New Zealand.
Dr Etches said New Zealand, like Canada, has a target of keeping the smoking rate below 5 per cent of the population. Her submission noted that New Zealand's policies sought to limit the nicotine content in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, reduce the number of retailers allowed to sell cigarettes, and ban people born after 2008 from purchasing cigarettes.
In response to inquiries about New Zealand's policy, Health Canada said the public consultation provides an opportunity for Canadians to share issues related to reducing smoking in Canada, including opportunities to monitor the market and limit access to youth. The department said it was analyzing the submissions and would draft a final report.
The office of Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya'ara Saks said it would have more to say once the final report is completed.
Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said his organization supports New Zealand's policy. The vast majority of Canadian smokers start smoking in their teens or early teens, he said.
Mr. Cunningham said if the policy were implemented in Canada, it would need to apply to all tobacco and vaping products. He said that the proportion of teenagers using e-cigarettes has increased significantly, and not covering e-cigarettes will leave a big gap.
Mr Cunningham added that additional steps would also be needed, such as tightening regulations. For example, he said, there should be fewer retail locations selling tobacco. He said all provinces and territories should require stores not to sell tobacco to people under 21, which is already the case in Prince Edward Island.
Dr. Etches' recent feedback to Health Canada also calls for raising the federal minimum age for purchasing tobacco, nicotine, and e-cigarette products to 21 (except for absolute smoking cessation products), among other measures.
Currently, the Tobacco and E-cigarette Products Act prohibits the sale of tobacco products to those under 18, although some provinces have raised the age limit. In Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, people who are 18 or older can purchase these products, while all other provinces except Prince Edward Island set the age at 19.