Cancer Society calls for action on public smoking

For the Canadian Cancer Society, National Non-smoking Week means a call to action to see smoking in outdoor public places limited.

For the Canadian Cancer Society, National Non-smoking Week means a call to action to see smoking in outdoor public places limited.

The BC and Yukon Division of the society is calling on the provincial government to extend the ban on smoking in outdoor places like patios of bars and restaurants, beaches, parks and playgrounds.

“During National Non-Smoking Week, we are urging policymakers to do one thing to enhance tobacco control and help prevent cancer –  expand regulations around smoke-free public places,” said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon.

The society is urging lawmakers in the province to step up and follow the lead of four other provinces and ban smoking in public places. Already in B.C., 30 municipalities have taken steps to create bans in their own town limits.

Second hand smoke is known to cause cancer, with 140 deaths a year in B.C. being linked to exposure to tobacco smoke. The U.S. Surgeon General and World Health Organization have determined there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not alone in its quest to see the bans extended province-wide. They formed the Clean Air Coalition BC with the BC Lung Association and Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Kaminsky said a ban should be put in place to protect children using public spaces, which is supported by several entities.

“There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, a fact supported by the U.S. Surgeon General and Medical Health Officers’ Council of BC. Children, teens and adults should be protected when they play outdoors,” she said.

A ban would have a second positive side effect: smokers who can’t smoke everywhere they go will feel less inclined to do so.

“We know that smoke-free outdoor places increase the motivation for smokers to quit or cut back,” Kaminsky said.

That will in turn help youth again, as evidence suggests most smokers begin before they are 18 years old.

“Eliminating smoking in public places creates healthy role modelling so youth are less likely to even consider taking up the habit,” Kaminsky said.

The Canadian Cancer Society reports that B.C. has the lowest smoking rate in the country at 14 per cent. The province recently finished up year-one of its Smoking Cessation Program, which saw 150,000 orders for nicotine replacement therapy.

“We believe the government has made great strides to helping reduce smoking rates in our province but we need to do even more,” Kaminsky said. “Protecting British Columbians from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke outdoors and from exposure to smoking behaviours needs to be a top priority for all politicians.”

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