Regina, November 24, 2015-- In a report card released today, health advocates from The Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society give the Saskatchewan government a disappointing 'D+' overall for its listless efforts to protect the public from the harms of tobacco, the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the province.
"Saskatchewan has the highest youth smoking rate in Canada, which is nearly double the national average," says Donna Pasiechnik from the Canadian Cancer Society. "This is completely unacceptable. Unless we begin to seriously address this issue now, smoking-related illnesses will overwhelm our society and the health care system."
The report card and accompanying analysis, conducted by an independent tobacco control consultant, grades the government’s actions on 10 key recommendations made by the health groups since 2009. The topics in the report range from tobacco control funding to the need to prevent youth from smoking by banning menthol and candy-flavoured tobacco products. Saskatchewan is far behind the rest of the country.
"The Saskatchewan government is not keeping up with new evidence, citing a need to monitor before taking any action. We have gone ahead and produced this report that highlights new evidence and the policy changes happening across the country, in an effort to support decision makers to take action" says Lorie Langenfurth from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Saskatchewan gets an 'A' for increasing tobacco taxes and controlling the sale of tax-exempt tobacco. Both these measures have reduced consumption. However, the government gets an 'F' for its refusal to ban flavoured tobacco and regulate electronic cigarettes. The government gets four 'D's for inaction on outdoor smoking such as on restaurant and bar patios, regulating where tobacco is sold, and for not providing funding for programs and policies. In 2013-14 the provincial government collected approximately $275 million in tobacco tax revenue1, yet spent just $450 thousand on tobacco control programs. That works out to 40 cents per capita, which is the lowest in the country. "We expect our government to commit to a more aggressive, well-funded tobacco control strategy that will reduce the unacceptably high use of tobacco in the province," says Jennifer Miller from The Lung Association. "It’s about time this government showed leadership to do everything possible to attack this serious public health issue."
Public opinion surveys conducted in Saskatchewan in 2011 and 2012 indicate strong public support for province-wide legislation that bans flavoured tobacco products and prohibits smoking in outdoor spaces including public patios, parks and playgrounds.
Smoking costs the Saskatchewan economy more than a billion dollars annually and kills more than 3 Saskatchewan people every day2. Saskatchewan continues to have the highest youth smoking rates in Canada3.
Analyzing the Saskatchewan Government's Performance. Year: 2009-2015. To the Citizens of Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan’s three largest health charities recently retained a consultant from out-of-province to grade the Saskatchewan government on its progress on 10 evidence-based tobacco control recommendations. These recommendations were made by the health organizations in 2009 and 2014. Using an A-F grading system (see back of card) the independent analysis shows that the province has acted on relatively few of the recommendations.
Analyzing the Saskatchewan Government's Performance. Year: 2009-2015.
A review of best practices, research and policy has been used to evaluate Saskatchewan’s progress in tobacco control since 2009 when a group of health organizations issued 8 Prescriptions for Health: Reducing tobacco’s
deadly impact in Saskatchewan. Subsequently in 2014, health organizations issued Reducing Tobacco Use in Saskatchewan: A briefing note for the Minister of Health. Both of these documents made a number of tobacco control recommendations.
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Lung Association of Saskatchewan
Canadian Cancer Society
306-790-9871 306-533-5288 cell
- Government of Saskatchewan. Tobacco Tax Programs: Tobacco Tax Revenue by Fiscal Year. (2013) http://www.finance.gov.sk.ca/taxes/tob/
- Rhymes, J and Colman R. for GPI Atlantic. The Cost of Tobacco Use in Saskatchewan, October 2009. http://www.cancer.ca/~/media/cancer.ca/SK/get%20involved/take%20action/tobacco%20control/costoftobacco-tobaccofullreport-SK.pdf Note: latest year for which statistics are available
- Saskatchewan Ministry of Health. Building a Healthier Saskatchewan: A strategy to reduce tobacco use. (no date)