More tobacco taxes, smoke-free bylaws: local group calls on B.C. government to take action

British Columbia’s smoking rate is the lowest in the country at 14.3 per cent, according to data from Statistics Canada from 2014, but that’s still far from the government’s smoking-reduction goal.

Federal government wants to reduce number of smokers to 5 per cent of Canadians by 2035

Each year, approximately 6,000 British Columbians die from smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, the B.C. government estimated in 2011. (CBC)

British Columbia's smoking rate is the lowest in the country at 14.3 per cent, according to data from Statistics Canada from 2014, but that's still far from the federal government's smoking-reduction goal.

The federal government wants to get tobacco use to less than five per cent of the population by 2035.

Jack Boomer, director of the Clean Air Coalition of B.C., said the number of people smoking in the province has remained static over the past few years rather than being reduced as health authorities hope.   

"We need to make it harder for children and youth to start smoking and easier for adults to quit while protecting people from second-hand smoke," he told CBC host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn.

His organization has some specific ideas about how B.C. can reach that goal, as National Non-Smoking week kicks off from Jan. 21 to 27.

Recommendations

The coalition recently submitted a report to the B.C. Ministry of Health with a list of recommendations on how to reduce tobacco-related deaths and achieve a lower smoking rate. 

"We have to look at tobacco use as a chronic relapsing condition," Boomer said.

The main recommendations in the report include strengthening smoke-free bylaws, increasing tobacco taxes, setting tighter requirements for retailers, funding smoking cessation support programs and increasing smoke-free housing units.

"If you have strong smoke-free bylaws and rules and regulations in place, that encourages people to quit smoking or to smoke fewer cigarettes," he said. 

He said he wants bans to be consistent across the province. 

B.C. currently has the lowest tobacco taxes in Western Canada but, Boomer argued, that should change.

The report recommends increasing tobacco taxes by $18 per carton of 200 cigarettes. 

"It's one of the most effective ways to encourage youth not to start smoking because it becomes cost-prohibitive," he said. 

With files from The Early Edition.