Saskatchewan is not doing enough to protect the public from the harms of tobacco, according to a report card from the Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the Canadian Cancer Society. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the province.
The new report card gives Saskatchewan a D+ for a “listless” effort to reduce tobacco use.
“Saskatchewan has the highest youth smoking rate in Canada, which is nearly double the national average,” Donna Pasiechnik from the Canadian Cancer Society said in a written release. “This is completely unacceptable. Unless we begin to seriously address the issue now, smoking-related illnesses will overwhelm our society and health care system.”
An independent tobacco control consultant conducted the research that was used to create the report card, grading the government on 10 key recommendations made since 2009. The topics in the report range from tobacco control funding, to the need to ban menthol and candy flavoured tobacco products to decrease youth smoking rates. The consultant found that Saskatchewan is far behind the rest of the country.
Saskatchewan did get an ‘A’ for increasing tobacco taxes, and controlling the sale of tax-exempt tobacco. However, the government also got a ‘D’ for inaction on outdoor smoking, such as on restaurant and bar patios.
The consultant found that the government collected $275 million in tobacco tax revenue in 2013-14, but only spent $450 thousand on tobacco control programs, only 40 cents per capita. That’s the lowest in the country.
“It’s about time this government showed leadership to do everything possible to attack this serious public health issue.” Jennifer Miller from The Lung Association said in a written release.
The consultant also noted that smoking costs the province’s economy more than a billion dollars annually, and kills three Saskatchewan residents every day.