NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece from Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.
It has been 40 years since the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control launched National Non-Smoking Week in Canada, which runs until Jan. 21.
The focus was simple: To educate Canadians about the dangers of smoking.
Now, four decades later, we have seen radical changes in how we view smoking and tobacco use, and more recently, e-cigarette use among our population.
Since the 1970s, Nova Scotia has proudly taken a leadership role. Our policy changes have helped to create a physical and social environment where smoking is no longer the norm. In fact, the Canadian Cancer Society named Nova Scotia as a world leader in tobacco control in its 2015-16 Impact Report.
Recently, concerns have been raised globally, most notably by the Surgeon General of the United States, about the public health concerns of e-cigarette use, particularly by youth and young adults.
Here at home we saw that risk and acted early. Almost two years ago, our government took steps to improve two already strong pieces of legislation B the Smoke-Free Places Act and the Tobacco Access Act.
We regulated access to e-cigarettes and flavoured tobacco, including their sale and advertising, by amending the Tobacco Access Act. We also expanded the definition in the Smoke-Free Places Act to include electronic smoking devices, waterpipes, and other non-tobacco substances.
We can’t allow smoking in public places to become the norm once again. We must remain vigilant and are committed to ensuring our legislation is responsive to changes within our society.
These changes have since been copied by several different jurisdictions, validating the important steps we have taken here in Nova Scotia.
Certainly, these changes wouldn’t have been possible without many dedicated partners such as the Canadian Cancer Society and Smoke-Free Nova Scotia. Working together, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban flavoured tobacco, including menthol. We were also the first province in Canada to regulate e-cigarettes.
Throughout the process of making our policy changes, I always believed there was an important role for the federal government in regulating e-cigarettes. Over the last few years I have continued to talk about the need for a national approach, so it gives me great pleasure to congratulate the federal government for recently tabling a bill on e-cigarettes.
I would be remiss if I did not take time to address the role of individuals.
Quitting smoking can be very difficult and I understand why many people are hesitant to try. However, I want you to know there is help.
Nova Scotians can call 811 to get access to a trained counsellor. They can also go to our Tobacco Free Nova Scotia website for other supports including an online chat, text messaging support, and website resources at https://tobaccofree.novascotia.ca/.