The Canadian government to show interest in tobacco control policies
In a restaurant, a mall, an office and even any school, thirty years ago a smoker could light up a cigarette in any one of these. However, today this is not the case, as smoking is barely permitted in any public places in Canada. Since the 1970’s Canadians have become more educated as to the harmful effects of smoking. As a result of changes in public opinion, the government of Canada has taken steps to more strictly regulate the sale of tobacco products. In this essay I will examine this change in policy and show that tobacco regulation has become more stringent and as a result has produced both successful and unsuccessful effects.
Health studies have played a large role in assessing the Canadian government to show interest in tobacco control policies. Over the past twenty-five years, health studies have educated people about the harmful effects of smoking. When Canada was hesitant to impose any restrictions on tobacco, it was the Health Minister of the 1970 government, who received information from studies being conducted, that pressed on the government to take measures in tobacco control. Also, during and after the same time, documents such as Health and Welfare Canada’s Canadian Initiatives in Smoking and Health were published, rapidly increasing interest in smoking studies.
Although not all conclusive, many of these studies not only presented tobacco as a large risk factor for a variety of malignancies, but also discouraged smoking; an issue the government had once promoted. 2 Due to the knowledge presented from these studies, Canada began to host a variety of conferences on tobacco. Seminars such as the 1986 conference on health promotion in Ottawa further pressured the government to take interest in tobacco regulation. Moreover, while health promotions and monitoring began to increase, the information presented to the Canadian public also increased, inevitably leading to a shift in public opinion. Studies of tobacco regulation in Canada have been influenced by public opinion and interest groups.
As health studies became easily available, the public was educated about the ignorance that the Canadian people previously held towards smoking. Drawing from this newly acquired knowledge, the negative effects of smoking dawned upon Canadians as public opinion shifted to anti-smoking. Consequently, in as early as 1974 organized interest groups began to form, pushing the government for stronger tobacco control. Groups such as the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, the Canadian Council on Smoking and Health, and the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada emerged as a strong opposition to the Canadian government’s tobacco-control policies.
Although certain medically based groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Lung Association failed to initially assist in tobacco control reforms, by the mid 1980’s they too became involved in influencing policies. With, the support and information presented from interest groups, the Canadian public over the past thirty years has been changing smoking into an unacceptable social behaviour and the government has had to keep up. Since complying with the public’s opinion gets votes and since votes form a government, the government has been left with no choice but to conform to the opinion of the people and to gain interest in tobacco policy control. The government of Canada has regulated the sales of tobacco products over the past thirty years by intervening in the legal and marketing aspects of the industry.
Beginning in 1970, the Canadian government pressured tobacco companies to print health warnings on their products and to agree to stop advertising on television and radio. 7 This ban lasted for almost two decades until 1988, in which the government introduced the national Tobacco Products Control Act, which forced cigarette advertising out of all newspapers and magazines. Perhaps, the strictest tobacco act to that point in Canadian history, it also banned any promotion on billboards and restricted advertising on anything that was not a tobacco product. Although this bill was later revised in 1997 and 1998, it was still full of bans on marketing the tobacco industry. Major changes in the legal aspects of tobacco control began in 1980, when the first law against sales to minors was introduced. Even though the law was often ignored by Canadians, it led to the 1993 Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act, a more serious and stricter law that prevented the sale of tobacco to persons under eighteen, eventually changing to nineteen. 9Furthermore, the government took legal action in banning smoking in virtually all public places in Canada.
In 1980, bylaws restricting smoking in restaurants, shopping malls, offices and on public transportation were passed by municipal governments. Over next two decades municipality by municipality followed this example in tobacco regulation. Today smoking in Canada has even been made illegal in bars, restaurants, hotel lobbies, bingo halls, bowling alleys, long-term care facilities and many tobacco industries have also been taken to court. 10 With banned advertising and legal procedures in tact, the Canadian government also took steps in controlling the costs of tobacco products.
The Canadian government took further steps in regulating the sale of tobacco products through taxation. It was not until 1989, that the Canadian government took control of taxation on cigarettes. In 1989, taxes on cigarettes in Canada increased by 80 percent and in 1991 on top of that by 60 percent. 11 Within that year, Canadian taxes on cigarettes were so high that they exceeded those of most of the Western European countries. In comparison to the United States, Canadian taxes were much higher after their increase in 1991.
While a cigarette pack in Canada retailed at six dollars, the United States it was just a mere dollar seventy. 12 Taxes continued to increase throughout the decade and by 1998 provincial governments were making a large profit of off them. In British Columbia for example, 72 percent of what a consumer paid for a pack of cigarettes was due to British Columbia’s taxes. In Ontario that percentage was slightly lower at a little over 50 percent, and in Quebec 55 percent. 13 Taxation was perhaps the intervention that the government took care of last but certainly the fastest.
In a matter of only a few years, taxes on cigarettes in the Canadian society increased rapidly, by a hefty amount. Analyzing the above facts, tobacco control in 2002 is significantly more stringent than it was in 1970. Although both sides of the argument can be presented, it cannot be denied that the government has taken harsher steps in making tobacco control stricter. The Fraser Institute, in their article on the history of tobacco regulations, provides clear examples of the steps that the Canadian government has taken in regulating issues such as the advertising of tobacco products.
It is evident that between 1970 and 2002 there have been significant increases in the banning of tobacco advertisements. From prohibiting advertising on television to prohibiting it everywhere, it is evident that stringent steps have been taken to control tobacco sales. 14 However, the other side of the argument is presented by the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, who do not necessarily believe that the government has not become more stringent, but believe that the extent to which the Fraser Institute presents it is false. 5 The association believes that the Fraser Institute is not independent from the tobacco industry and that the article was an attempt to manipulate the media.
Since, the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association sees the biggest reform to be in that of the public health system, they do not believe that the government has taken very serious steps in regulating tobacco control. They instead believe that the information presented by the Fraser Institute, is just an attempt to re-direct the media away from the health aspects of tobacco. 6 Even if all this hold true, with barely any bans on advertising in 1970 to bans on tobacco advertising on any non-tobacco product in 2002, it is difficult to show that the Canadian government has not taken serious control over this issue. Furthermore, over the past thirty years in Canada laws and acts have been passed in order to regulate the advertising of tobacco products. The Canadian government has not only taken more stringent steps in regulation the marketing of tobacco control but also the legal aspects and the costs of the products.
Legal issues of tobacco have been significantly more regulated over the past thirty years. The control of tobacco in regards to legal issues in 2002 has been notably more stringent than it was in 1970. Prior to the 1993 introduction of the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act, tobacco regulation was not a legal issue at all. Cigarettes were sold to teenagers and children of all ages, without any government intervention. Smoking was permitted in most public places and companies were kept out of court. Today and in 2002, this is definitely not the case.
It is almost impossible to buy cigarettes if a person is under the age of nineteen and there no longer exists a public place where a smoker can smoke. In addition, tobacco company after tobacco company is being sued and taken to court. As presented already, the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, sees the government intervention in tobacco regulation to be a non-sufficient one. Once again it argues that the major reform is in that of the public health system and that the government has taken little steps in producing significant results in that area.
However, it would be and is ignorant to overlook the significant changes that have been made over the past thirty years. Not only has the government taken legal responsibilities over selling cigarettes to minors but has also become more rigid in controlling and providing a smoker’s limits. 18 As a result of the government’s intervention, the legal aspects of tobacco control have become more stringent than they were thirty years ago, also producing changes in taxation. The Canadian government took steps in controlling tobacco more severely through taxation. In 1970, there were barely any taxes imposed on cigarettes and their regulation.
In 2002, Canadians pay over half of the price of a cigarette pack to taxes. With that in mind, it is apparent that the Canadian government has become more severe in regards to tobacco control. In their book, Robert Kagan and David Vogel, state that by the early 1990’s “Canada led the world, or was close to the lead, in restricting cigarette marketing, in deterring use through taxation, and in directly regulation cigarette use. “19 Due to the dramatic increase of tobacco taxation in the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, the Canadian government was able to take a stronger grip on regulating tobacco control.
The government itself did benefit from the raising of these taxes as a large percentage of the revenue from cigarettes was given to provincial government. 20 Taxation on tobacco products was beneficial for both the government and tobacco regulation. The government profited from it, while also more stringently controlling tobacco policies. Between 1970 and 2002, the Canadian government was able to significantly increase their tobacco regulation through the use of taxation. The control of tobacco regulation in Canada has produced a variety of successful results.
Within a matter of three decades the percentage of smoking Canadians significantly decreased from 49. 5 percent to 27 percent. Also, there been a large decrease in the prevalence of Canadians who smoke. Prevalence, meaning those who smoke regularly and occasionally, since the introduction of tobacco regulations by the Canadian government has fallen by over 20 percent. 21 The Government of Canada’s website also shows the decline in smoking trends. A daily smoker in 1981 smoked about 20 cigarettes per day, while a smoker in 2002 smokes an average of 16 cigarettes per day.
In more recent years, between 1991 and 1999 alone there has been a 7 percent decrease in the number of adult smokers. It cannot be dismissed that tobacco control has produced some significant results in decreasing the smoking rate amongst Canadians. The percentage of Canadians who smoke, the prevalence of Canadian smokers and the number of cigarettes that Canadians consume, have all seen a considerable decline. Consequently with the good comes the bad, and with the considerable decline, also comes the negatives of tobacco regulation in Canada.
Although, tobacco control in Canada has seen its positive consequences, the unsuccessful results have also been highly evident. The one and most important problem that the Canadian government still faces today is the increase of cigarette usage in teenagers. In 1990 approximately 21 percent of teenagers aged fifteen to nineteen smoked on a daily occasion. That percentage noticeably increased to 28 percent in a matter of only nine years. 23 It has also been argued that both the advertising bans and the taxation that the government imposed on tobacco companies have been highly unsuccessful.
With the prohibition of any cigarette advertising in 1988, studies done on tobacco consumption concluded that in the short-run it had in fact risen. 24 Furthermore, according to the Fraser Institute, anti-smoking laws could possibly be slowing down the decline in smoking. By blocking advertisings from the public, certain cigarette companies are held back from providing information about what they use in their cigarettes and what supposedly makes them better for a person than other brands. 25 There has also been insufficient evidence that taxes can discourage the health of smokers.
Studies have been conducted that prove that if taxes go up on cigarettes, smokers do not begin to promote a healthy life style but instead engage in more alcohol drinking or drugs. 26 Finally, it is also believed by some that tobacco regulation has had nothing to do with the decline in smoking trends and that instead they have been influenced by economic factors. When income or economic factors rise, contrary to opposite beliefs, people do not consume more cigarettes but instead want to live longer and there is a decline in smoking. 7 Those who believe this theory argue that tobacco regulation over the past thirty years has not produced many useful results, they have been instead produced by economic factors. Consequently, although tobacco control by the Canadian government has had its share of successful results, it has also presented its share of unsuccessful ones. Over the past thirty years, the deadly effects of smoking have been presented to the Canadian public. As a result their opinion on the tobacco industry has shifted and the government has had to make stricter policies to keep up with these changes.
This paper examined the steps the government took in tobacco regulation, the fact that tobacco regulation has become more stringent and as a result produced both useful and ineffective results. I have therefore concluded that it has been due to the bans on advertising, the legal steps the government has taken and the taxation of cigarettes that tobacco regulation has become more severe. Furthermore, although smoking has declined over the past thirty years there is no clear evidence to prove that it has been due to tobacco regulation.
Tobacco usage is still an existent factor in today’s society and it seems that every possible measure has been taken to prevent it. Even the harsh tobacco regulations that are being imposed by the government have not been able to solve this problem. With the tobacco control attempts made over the past thirty years to avert the public from smoking, it seems that it is now time for the Canadian government to turn to something else to prevent the deadly habit and further decrease its usage.