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Saskatchewan gets failing grade on moving to reduce tobacco consumption

REGINA — The Opposition NDP is calling on the government of Premier Brad Wall to take more steps to reduce tobacco consumption in Saskatchewan.

The call comes the same day that a coalition of health groups released a report card giving the province a grade of D+ or "unacceptable" when it comes to protecting people from the harms of tobacco.

Donna Pasiechnik of the Canadian Cancer Society says Saskatchewan has the highest youth smoking rate in Canada, which is nearly double the national average.

Lorie Langenfurth of the Heart and Stroke Foundation says that's because the province is not keeping up with new evidence and continually says it needs to monitor the situation before taking action.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan says the government has already banned smoking on school grounds and in vehicles with children but says he is prepared to look at other recommendations from health agencies.

He also wants to see what new programs will be introduced by the federal government.

NDP health critic Danielle Chartier says tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the province.

She says the province should take more steps, such as banning smoking in outdoor eating places and banning candy-flavoured tobacco products.

"Unless we begin to seriously address this issue now, smoking-related illnesses will overwhelm our society and the health care system," says Pasiechnik.

The report card looks at 10 recommendations that have been made by the three health groups since 2009. Saskatchewan is far behind the rest of the country in following up with those recommendations, though it got an A for increasing tobacco taxes and controlling the sale of tax-exempt tobacco.

(CKRM, CJME)

CKRM, CJME, The Canadian Press

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