Butting Out: Government Helps Canadians Kick the Habit

January 17, 2021
Ottawa Journal (January 17 – January 21, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)

As we begin 2011, Canadians young and old will be tackling their New Year’s resolutions.  For many, that means a bold attempt to quit smoking. Smoking is not only harmful to oneself, but also to those around you, who are subject to second-hand smoke.  Unfortunately, however, quitting is no easy feat. This is why our Government is helping smokers kick the habit by proposing changes to the labeling requirements for cigarettes and little cigars.

Research shows that current health warnings, which cover 50 per cent of cigarette packaging, have encouraged smokers in their attempts to quit. With help from the health warning messages introduced in 2000, smoking rates dropped from 24 per cent to 18 per cent of the population between 2000 and 2009. This is good news; however, research shows that current messages have reached their maximum potential in helping smokers quit.

Our Government is serious about helping Canadians quit smoking. We are serious about it because tobacco use not only kills 37,000 Canadians every year, but it costs the Canadian health care system $4.4 billion annually. Stronger, more effective and wider reaching labeling is only the beginning in our efforts to help Canadians quit smoking, once and for all.

At the core of our proposed changes is the enlargement of the actual warning labels from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the front and back of packages. These will feature 16 stronger messages that highlight a new set of tobacco-related diseases, including testimonials from people who have been affected by tobacco. Moreover, the styles and approaches will vary so that warnings can reach diverse audiences and age groups. Health Canada will help keep them effective by rotating the messages every four years.

For those who need a helping hand as they try to butt out, our Government is proposing a new Canada-wide quit line – a free, telephone-based counselling service in both official languages to help Canadians quit smoking. This number would seamlessly redirect callers to the quit line service of their province or territory. Both the website and telephone number would appear on every cigarette and little cigar package, increasing the reach of these provincial and territorial services.

It’s easy to disregard warnings and messages that don’t stand out. This is why our proposals will help make health information messages more effective with many more people. Additionally, toxic emission statements – information about the number of toxic substances found in tobacco smoke – will be less confusing. We will help ensure that new statements are clear, concise and easy-to-understand so they will be more accessible to Canadians.

Along with these changes, we are launching a campaign that will target smokers and young adults with anti-tobacco messaging. The multimedia approach will help messages reach the widest range of ages and audiences. It will engage in a dialogue with smokers at a time when they are making critical health choices. It will also help prevent Canada’s youth from picking up the habit in the first place.

Attempting to quit smoking can be daunting. It’s not easy and there are countless hurdles along the way. However, the light at the end of the tunnel is a smoke-free, healthier, and longer life for you and your family. This is why our Government is helping Canadians overcome the challenges they face as they kick the habit, helping you think twice before your next cigarette.