Backgrounder - Ontario government's anti-smoking strategy

Archived Release

Backgrounder - Ontario government's anti-smoking strategy

Ministry of Finance

Ontario Supports Smoking Cessation, Enforcement Of Tobacco Sale, Distribution And Usage TORONTO, Jan. 18 - The government has committed to an aggressive tobacco control strategy that will significantly improve the health of Ontarians. Smoking is the number one preventable cause of premature death and illness in Ontario. It also results in $2.6 billion a year in productivity losses and costs an estimated $1.7 billion a year in health care spending to treat diseases directly caused by tobacco. In December, the Minister of Health introduced the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. This legislation would, if passed, ban smoking in all workplaces, protect all workers regardless of where they are employed, and would prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places that are not primarily a place of residence as of May 31, 2006. This would include restaurants, bars, schools, private clubs, healthcare facilities, sports arenas, entertainment venues, work vehicles and offices including government buildings. The proposed act would also limit the sale, distribution and use of tobacco products, including stricter measures to ensure only those 19 years of age and older can buy cigarettes. It would ban all countertop displays at retail outlets and prohibit the promotion of tobacco products at entertainment venues. Encouraging smoking cessation and promoting enforcement are two key elements of this strategy. Smoking cessation The government currently funds Smoker's Helpline (run by the Canadian Cancer Society's Ontario Division), which helps smokers quit, and the Clinical Intervention Program (operated by the Ontario Medical Association), which trains doctors, dentists and pharmacists to provide their patients with smoking cessation counselling. Other government-funded health care partners offering programs or information about quitting smoking include the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Ontario Lung Association, Ontario Dental Association, and Ontario Pharmacists' Association. Youth campaign The government has launched an innovative multi-media campaign to prevent smoking among youth. The campaign specifically targets young people, a group most at risk of starting to smoke. The campaign features a website, www.stupid.ca, as well as television, cinema and print advertising. The campaign was created by ministry staff in conjunction with a panel of young Ontarians from across the province. The panel, which includes former smokers, non-smokers and smoke-free advocates, ages 14 to 21, developed messaging and strategies that would reach Ontario youth in the most relevant and effective way. Enforcement The 2004 Ontario budget strengthened the enforcement provisions in the Tobacco Tax Act related to illegal manufacturing, purchase and sale of tobacco products. Some of these measures include: - New offence provisions, stiffer fines and jail terms - New sanctions for persons who deliver, store, transport or possess tobacco in bulk (10,000 cigarettes) acquired from unauthorized sources - Reduced possession limit of 200 unmarked (no Ontario tax paid) cigarettes, with fines and penalties for non-compliance (previous limit was 1,000 cigarettes); possession of 10,000 or more unmarked cigarettes also now carries an optional jail term of up to two years - Sanctions for possession of 50 cigars or 1 kilogram of manufactured tobacco for which tax has not been paid. - Increased minimum fines ($500 or $1,000, depending on the offence - the previous minimum fines were $200) and civil penalties (three times amount of tax payable); penalties for persons dealing in bulk tobacco were also increased (five times amount of tax payable) - New set minimum fine ($500) for purchasing tobacco from an unregistered importer. Disponible en fran├žais For more information visit www.gov.on.ca/fin or www.health.gov.on.ca/For further information: Ministry of Finance: Diane Flanagan, Minister's Office, (416) 212-0634; Manuel Alas-Sevillano, Communications Branch, (416) 212-2155; Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: Eva Lannon, Minister's Office, (416) 327-4320; Dan Strasbourg, Communications Branch, (416) 314-6197