Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Canada. It increases the risk of at least 16 different types of cancer, including lung cancer. The ComPARe study found that about 17.5% of cancer cases are due to smoking tobacco, making it the leading preventable cause of cancer. And it will continue to be the leading preventable cause of cancer in the future unless we act now.
Tobacco smoking rates have decreased over the years, but 5 million Canadians still smoke and too many young people start smoking each year. Health Canada’s goal is to have less than 5% of Canadians using tobacco by 2035. If we reach this goal, the ComPARe study findings tell us that we could prevent over 50,000 cancer cases due to smoking tobacco by 2042.
To reach the 5% by 2035 goal set by Health Canada, it is important to make it harder for young people to start smoking, support people who want to quit and hold the tobacco industry accountable for their role in causing the tobacco epidemic. In 2019 the Canadian Cancer Society recommended in its federal election platform that the government implement an annual cost recovery fee on the tobacco industry to provide full reimbursement for the $66 million annual cost of the federal tobacco control strategy. This fee would be similar to the one already implemented in Canada on the cannabis industry last year and the one that has collected fees from tobacco industry in the United States since 2009. A national 2018 Ipsos opinion poll found that the majority of Canadians supported “a measure that would make tobacco companies pay the costs of Health Canada’s programs to reduce youth smoking.” A cost recovery fee on the tobacco industry would complement the government’s other tobacco control measures, including the best plain packaging regulations in the world.
Supporting the case for an annual cost recovery fee on the tobacco industry is just one way that the ComPARe study findings can be used to advocate for creating healthier public policy.
Elizabeth Holmes, MPH
Manager, Health Policy, Canadian Cancer Society
ComPARe study Knowledge Translation team
Senior Manager, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society