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Health Canada is looking for outside experts to review its tobacco control strategy – a federal program that seems to have hit a wall after years of helping to drive down smoking rates, according to a story by John Paul Tasker for CBC News.
Statistics Canada data show that 16 per cent of Canadians aged 25 and older smoked tobacco in 2017, up from 13 percent in 2016.
Tasker reported that, according to a posting on Merx, a website used by Ottawa to list outstanding government tenders, Health Canada is asking contractors to prepare a report on the ‘value for money’ of the longstanding, multi-million-dollar program that has sought to reduce the number of smokers in Canada. The review would look back at how well the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy (FTCS) performed between 2001 and 2017.
But David Hammond of the University of Waterloo, one of Canada’s foremost experts on tobacco controls, said the proposed historical review should take a backseat to an urgently needed, fundamental “rethink” of the current tobacco control program.
Hammond said there had been some substantial changes in the nicotine market since the FTCS was launched, with the recent legalization of electronic cigarettes and the introduction of more sophisticated vaping devices.
The federal government, Hammond said, could go beyond the standardized tobacco-packaging regulations it was set to introduce and pursue more restrictions on where cigarettes could be sold.
And Ottawa was urged to pursue new regulatory controls over cigarettes. “Where we’ve struggled is on the product side,” said Hammond. “We’re really good at telling people not to smoke. We’re pretty good at telling them where not to smoke.
“We’re not great at actually helping them to quit.
Where we’ve really dropped the ball is in dealing with the product. We’ve done nothing to make cigarettes less harmful or addictive.”
He suggested Ottawa could do more to “incentivize people to get off smoke” by championing e-cigarettes and vaping products as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes. “We have to get off smoke.”