Health policy analyst wants action on youth smoking

(Wikimedia Commons)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) of Saskatchewan’s health policy analyst is speaking out about concerning smoking statistics.

According to the 2017 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, 22 per cent of youth between the ages of 15 and 19 in Saskatchewan are smoking compared to eight per cent nationally.

For Donna Pasiechnik, solving this epidemic lies in the hands of the provincial government.

“We have a problem here, but we also have solutions,” she said.

These answers include mandatory tobacco retailer licenses, making outdoor public places smoke-free and banning hookah lounges and the display of electronic cigarettes.

However, Pasiechnik is praising Prince Albert for already having implemented some of these crucial measures.

Flavoured electronic cigarettes a major concern

Flavours of bubblegum, cherry and vanilla in e-cigarettes are blending in with candy on display for children, which Pasiechnik said is lifting the will to smoke in Saskatchewan’s youth.

“Keep an eye out for them,” she said. “We’re seeing big product displays from Vype, which is an electronic cigarette made by Imperial Tobacco.”

While flavoured cigarettes and cigars are off the counters in Saskatchewan, not all tobacco products of this nature are. The province still allows flavoured e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and shisha, which is used in hookah lounges.

The majority of other provinces have banned flavoured tobacco products altogether.

This chart summarizes tobacco control measures across Canada–Saskatchewan being the only province to implement none of the listed prevention initiatives. (Canadian Cancer Society/Submitted)

“We can not allow this to happen. We know from studies many people who start with e-cigarettes begin smoking as well, and in a province with 22 per cent of our teens smoking, you know, we have to put a stop to this,” she said.

Not only does the use of e-cigarettes typically lead to smoking tobacco, they can be addictive on their own.

“They do have nicotine and in some cases, very high doses of nicotine,” she emphasized.

Pasiechnik said Health Minister Jim Reiter wants to meet with the CCS regarding smoking laws.

They’re discussing the CCS’s ideas in the near future to curb the high number of youth smokers, half of which will be addicted for a lifetime.

Prince Albert takes steps towards a healthier air

Despite these alarming numbers, Pasiechnik commended city council for implementing bylaws that make many outdoor public places smoke-free and ban hookah lounges.

“Anytime (cities) move forward to improve and update tobacco laws, it motivates, puts pressure on other municipalities and the provincial government to do the same,” she said.

City council adopted the bylaws in August of this year.

Although many municipalities have taken these steps, Pasiechnik wants to see it become provincial legislation: “Your level of protection from second-hand smoke shouldn’t depend on your postal code.”