April 17, 2012

Health Canada cuts to tobacco control program are a false economy and a public health set-back.

The following statement is a response by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) to the communication last week that Health Canada was cutting its tobacco control budget by $15  million, ending transfer payments to community groups, cutting the frequency of its monitoring surveys and eliminating 40 positions from the policy, research and regulation areas of substance abuse. This information was conveyed in a conference call between senior Health Canada employees and members of the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco on Wednesday, 12, 2012.

Health Canada has responded to directive to cut overall program expenses by 10% by imposing a 35% new cut to its tobacco control program which has already been severely cut in previous years. At an estimated $28 million, the budget for the federal tobacco control strategy is now only one-quarter of the original budget for this period set at $110 million.

These budget cuts are in addition to the diminishment of the programming and policy scope of the federal strategy that have taken place over the past 6 years. 

  • In 2006, then health minister Tony Clement, eliminated the federal First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Strategy. [1]
  • There has been virtually no mass media public education efforts for tobacco since 2006-2007, although this was a foundation stone of the original strategy.[2]
  • Federal tobacco taxes have not been increased in a decade, and inflation has reduced their value (and health impact) by one-tenth.[3]
  • Support for global tobacco control and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control fell by one half from 2005 to 2010.[4]
  • The Ministerial Advisory Council on tobacco control was disbanded.  [5]
  • Since 2006, the government has transferred 4 times as much money to tobacco farmers ($286 million) as it has transferred money to provincial or municipal governments and health charities to reduce smoking (estimated $69 million). [6]  [7]

For several decades, the federal government collaborated with provincial governments and national health charities in the design, implementation and oversight of a National Strategy to Reduce Tobacco Use.  We believe that discussions towards renewing this strategy were suspended by the federal government in 2008.

In 2011, Health Canada



1) Letter from the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco to Hon. Tony Clement, July 31, 2008.

2) Canada's implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. A Civil Society Shadow Report. October 2010. p. 32.

3) Deflated Tobacco Taxes. Fact sheet. Physician for a Smoke-Free Canada. November 2011.

4) Canada's implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. A Civil Society Shadow Report. October 2010. p. 61

5) Information on the council's work before its elimination can be found on Health Canada's website.

6) 2011 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada.  Chapter 3. Managing the Tobacco Transition Program.

7) Federal transfer payments for tobacco control. Fact sheet.  Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. November 2011.