This summer, the Canadian government conducted a three-month public consultation to review a potential law that would mandate plain-packaged cigarettes. The law would effectively ban corporate branding on cigarette packages. Now, the government appears poised to move ahead with the proposed law. Just as inevitably, Big Tobacco has begun to litter our newspapers, magazines and various electronic screens with print, online and video advertisements attacking the legislation.
Given the very real health concerns linked to obesity, it is unfortunate that aspartame, which can help decrease sugar intake, should be the subject of decades of misinformation. A similar issue has emerged around another less harmful alternative to a product far deadlier than soda: vapour products that replace lethal cigarettes.
Restrictions implemented in Australia have resulted in no meaningful decrease in already downwardly trending tobacco consumption rates -- and virtually no impact whatsoever in youth consumption rates in particular. Can Canada expect plain packaging regulation to offer any real improvements to smoking rates?
It is important to know that unlike other types of cancers, lung cancer doesn't show symptoms until in much later stages. This means that by the time an individual begins to notice changes to his or her health, the cancer has significantly advanced, often making treatment more complex. However, there is still hope.
For 24 years I was a smoker. That's nearly a quarter century of inhaling smoke into lungs that are probably black by now. But I loved it. I'd start the day with a smoke and a coffee, and I'd have that last cigarette at the end of my day. When my partner and I were expecting our first-born, I finally made the decision that I was ready to stop.
The Making Healthier Choices Act -- true Orwellian doublespeak -- treats vaping as if it was as harmful as smoking. This imaginative warping of the facts requires the province to ignore the growing scientific evidence that whether inhaled directly or second-hand, vaping has not been strongly associated with the negative health effects of inhaling combusted tobacco products.
Eating disorders don't care if you're male or female, under 10 years old or over 50 years old. They'll destroy anyone who's ripe for the picking. When I speak at school or to parents about body image, the issue of media manipulation always comes up and for good reason. We are definitely influenced by what we see and hear in our magazines and TV screens, but does the media CAUSE eating disorders? I say no.
If you are reading this, chances are you are thinking about quitting smoking, or you'd like to find ways to help a loved one quit. And if so, congratulations on taking this first step! Quitting smoking is a journey, not an event. It can take time and require lots of support from family, friends or your healthcare provider.
Since 2009, Health Canada has taken the position that e-cigarettes containing nicotine are illegal. But out on the streets, Health Canada is simply being ignored. There's a brisk trade in vaping supplies including nicotine. Much of the new legislation might be found unconstitutional if challenged in the courts. Nicotine addicts who still use tobacco as a delivery method are suffering harm to their health that now appears to be quite unnecessary.
There's good news and bad news about smoking. Recent statistics reveal that consumption rates are at record lows and appear to be dropping even further. And, as those rates fall, the menace of second-hand smoke also recedes. But these positive developments come at a time when new evidence warns that cigarettes are even more hazardous than we have thought. So to end smoking and the many costs it imposes on this continent, let alone elsewhere in the world, much remains to be done.
Taxes on tobacco and junk food, restrictions of advertising to children, attempts to address problem gambling, and other strategies can be sound policies in appropriate circumstances to promote healthy choices. But their effectiveness can face a lot of hurdles. Initiatives in one jurisdiction can be limited by the failure to act by other societies and by the virtual world impinging on the efforts of the real one. In this increasingly interdependent and connected world we need more local, international and global policy making and enforcement.
The tendency for governments to increasingly regulate the advertising industry, whether in the name of consumer protection or for health concerns, is already on full throttle. After cigarette packs, don't be surprised if sooner or later you see plain bags of chips on the shelves of convenience stores, or plain-packaged chocolate bars. Politicians stand on a steep, slippery slope that could lead to private property and intellectual property violations, and destruction of brands. The economic consequences should be weighted carefully. And such policies backed by solid empirical data, not merely good intentions.
The pain and terror that seem, for those first few days, like everything -- seen, smelled, tasted, heard, felt -- will be replaced by a longing similar to the kind one feels towards an old paramour. It is even possible that you will be capable of returning to the warm arms of the infrequent cigarette at some distant speck in the future without drowning again in the compulsion.
This is precisely what happened in Canada in the early 1990s. Indeed, following a steep increase in duties and taxes applicable to tobacco products by the federal government and the provinces, a vast illegal trade in cigarettes sprang up. Contraband's share in the Canadian tobacco market jumped from 1 per cent in 1987 to approximately 31 per cent by the end of 1993.