March 12, 2015
Dear Minister Lake,
We would like to applaud your recent announcement regarding your intention to amend BC's Tobacco Control Act to include restrictions on the sales of e-cigarettes to minors and to prohibit them from being smoked where conventional cigarettes cannot be smoked. This will at least help counter their use as a wedge issue with the potential to "renormalize" smoking and hook a new generation.
We would however like to strongly urge you to take this opportunity to more comprehensively amend BC's Tobacco Control Act. British Columbia's longstanding status as Canada's leading province in both tobacco reduction policy and results has come under jeopardy in recent years. Two other provinces have already introduced legislation banning e-cigarette use in public places. Five other provinces/territories have tobacco bans that exceed BC's, such as by including restaurant patios, playgrounds, and college campuses. Most disturbingly, BC is now the only province that still permits the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies.
Even more concerning is that this loss of policy leadership has been paralleled in changes in smoking prevalence data by province/territory. Over the last 5 years, whereas overall smoking rates in Canada have gone down by 1%, British Columbia is one of only 2 provinces/territories where prevalence rates have actually risen slightly. The rise over the last year alone is much more substantial, however hopefully just represents statistical noise, likely due to an overly optimistic 2012 sampling, and not the start of a much more ominous trend. (A table showing results from Statistics Canada's largest health survey is appended to this letter). It would appear at the least that British Columbia has made no progress in reducing overall smoking rates in the province in the past 5 years.
Accordingly we suggest that you extend your planned amendments to include measures which are already established in some or all other Canadian provinces. These include:
We recommend that you also consider reclaiming British Columbia's anti-tobacco leadership by designing ground-breaking legislative approaches in newly emerged anti-tobacco battlegrounds:
Minister Lake, we truly hope that you will take this opportunity to more fully amend British Columbia's Tobacco Control Act, and reclaim your province's prior, longstanding, and widely-admired status as a national and international leader in fighting the leading cause of preventable death in your province, our country, and our world.
For information: 613 600 5794