Canadian Health Experts Urge Lifetime Tobacco Ban for Post-2008 Generation

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Canadian Health Experts Urge Lifetime Tobacco Ban for Post-2008 Generation
Canadian health experts are urging the federal government to implement a lifelong ban on tobacco sales for anyone born after 2008, following New Zealand's proposed policy.

Recently, Canadian health experts are urging the federal government to implement a lifelong ban on tobacco products for all individuals born after 2008, according to a report by the Times Colonist. This proposal stems from a policy in New Zealand that is soon to be put on hold by the country's new prime minister.


The clinical scientist at the Ottawa Heart Institute, Andrew Pipe, specializes in smoking cessation and believes that New Zealand's policy is worth further research by the Canadian Ministry of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Dr. Pipe stated in an interview, "This is a perfect way to prevent another generation from becoming addicted to nicotine, and it requires serious consideration from the minister and the Canadian Ministry of Health." He further pointed out that tobacco remains the leading cause of disease, disability, and death in Canada, posing an "incredible burden" on the healthcare system.


The approach proposed by the New Zealand government in 2021 has undergone careful consideration and academic scrutiny. Dr. Pope, an expert in tobacco control, expresses that many individuals with an interest in tobacco control welcomed the introduction of this policy by then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government. However, the newly-elected Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, leading a coalition government, has stated that his administration plans to repeal these tobacco policies before they take effect.


Dr. Pope suggests that the UK is contemplating the implementation of a strategy similar to the one announced by New Zealand. He cautiously expresses optimism in the possibility of Ottawa's public health adopting this approach in Canada. According to him, this presents a feasible and pragmatic solution to initiate changes in the lives of young Canadians.


Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's health official, provided feedback on the federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act last November as part of a public consultation on potential amendments. This law governs the manufacturing, sale, labeling, and promotion of tobacco and e-cigarette products in Canada. In her submission, Dr. Etches recommended that Canada adopt a smoke-free generation policy similar to the one proposed in New Zealand.


Dr. Eakes stated that, like Canada, New Zealand also aims to achieve a smoking prevalence rate below 5%. Her submitted recommendations highlight that New Zealand's policies seek to limit the nicotine content in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, reduce the number of retailers permitted to sell cigarettes, and prohibit the purchase of cigarettes for individuals born after 2008.


In response to queries regarding New Zealand's policies, the Canadian Ministry of Health stated that public consultations provide Canadians with an opportunity to share their opinions on reducing smoking-related issues in Canada, including monitoring the market and implementing restrictions on youth access. The ministry noted that it is currently analyzing the opinions received and will draft a final report.


The office of the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, Ya'ara Saks, has stated that there will be more comments upon final completion of the report.


Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, has expressed support for New Zealand's policy. He stated that the majority of Canadian smokers start smoking during their teenage years or early adulthood.


Mr. Cunningham stated that if this policy were to be implemented in Canada, it would need to apply to all tobacco and e-cigarette products. He highlighted that there has been a significant increase in the percentage of young people using e-cigarettes, and not including them would leave a major gap.


Mr. Cunningham further added that additional measures need to be taken, such as strengthening regulations. For example, he stated that there should be a reduction in the number of retail outlets selling tobacco. He mentioned that all provinces and regions should require stores to refrain from selling tobacco to individuals below the age of 21, a practice that is already in place on Prince Edward Island.


Dr. Egis recently submitted feedback to the Canadian Department of Health, urging the federal minimum age for purchasing tobacco, nicotine, and e-cigarette products to be raised to 21 years old (excluding absolute cessation products), along with other measures.


Currently, there are laws in place that prohibit the sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products to individuals under the age of 18. However, some provinces have raised the age requirement. In the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, individuals who are 18 or older are allowed to purchase these products, whereas in all other provinces except for Prince Edward Island, the age limit has been set at 19.


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