Should Canada ban smoking tobacco? Expert weighs in


Sissi De Flaviis Writer

As some countries around the world start implementing bans on, or phasing out the use of tobacco, should Canada—a world leader in promoting the dangers of smoking—follow their lead?

Michael Chaiton, senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and professor at the University of Toronto, told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday a smoke-free approach is feasible in Canada, with the right legislation.

“I think as the prevalence of smoking falls, it becomes incumbent upon us to change the way that we address the problem,” he said.

This year, Canada announced it will require health warnings be printed directly on individual cigarettes—becoming the first country in the world to take this approach. This is part of the government’s strategy to reduce the percentage of Canada's population that smokes tobacco to less than five per cent by 2035.

Meanwhile, other countries are taking stronger measures to eliminate smoking.

Both New Zealand and the U.K. started working on a generational smoking ban, which would prevent anyone born after Jan. 1, 2009 from buying cigarettes legally. This law would basically raise the legal smoking age by one year every year until it applies to the whole population.

New Zealand was the first country to pass this kind of ban last December, in addition to passing legislation that reduces the nicotine content in cigarettes and reduced the number of retailers who could sell the product by 90 per cent.

While making it illegal does not mean it can not be accessed, Chaiton said these measures help reduce smoking in younger people because it reduces accessibility, takes the addictive drug out of cigarettes and makes it harder for people who haven’t started smoking yet, to start.

“I think all of these measures together give the signal that tobacco is just not a normal commercial product and that we're ready to move on to understanding it in a similar way that we do other drugs,” he said.

In Canada, teenagers are already smoking less cigarettes than they used to, yet, vaping rates are among the highest in the world, according to Health Canada.

“We have basically the worst of both worlds. We still have cigarettes on the shelves, and we have vaping, too,” Chaiton said.

The heath agency says eight per cent of students between grades 7 to 12 vape daily, while the same is true for 12 per cent of students in grades 10 to 12.

Chaiton explained vaping should be offered as an alternative to smoking cigarettes for people who are trying to quit as “vaping is much less dangerous.”

With New Zealand and the U.K. forging ahead with their smoking bans, Chaiton said it's a possibility for Canada, too.

“Things like this smoke-free generation or taking the nicotine out of cigarettes become more feasible… especially in a country like Canada,” he said.