Tobacco: The Truth Hurts

Tobacco Advocacy: What’s New?

Tobacco and Health: The Truth Hurts

Tobacco and the Economy: The Truth Hurts

Tobacco: The Truth Hurts

Of all public health problems, tobacco use in Ontario has the most serious and wide-ranging impacts on the health of our citizens and the province’s economy. It affects Ontarians in many different ways: the costs of purchasing cigarettes, of medical care, of foregone income and lost productivity, of pain and suffering to families and relatives of tobacco victims, the difficulties of treating nicotine addiction successfully, health damage from exposure to second-hand smoke — the list is a long one. We’ll briefly review the major health impacts of tobacco use below, and the economic costs to Ontario.

The tobacco problem has many other dimensions: continuing addiction of young people, attractive displays of tobacco products in thousands of retail outlets, widespread exposure to second-hand smoke in workplaces and public places, low prices (Ontario’s are the lowest cigarette prices in Canada and in any neighbouring U.S. state), and continuing sponsorship advertising by the industry.

Recently, the Canadian tobacco industry’s own documents have shown that it has actively marketed to children, is alleged to have directly encouraged the 1992-4 smuggling epidemic which led to tax reductions, has misrepresented the health effects of its products for years, and opposes virtually every major piece of legislation or health policy aimed at reducing tobacco use. The industry is extremely well-funded, lobbies governments effectively, and has had significant success in slowing the pace of product regulation and tobacco use reduction.

Tobacco Advocacy: What’s New? top of page

As of November 2000, the tobacco control campaign in Ontario is active on three legislative fronts:

1. Municipal
Campaigns to pass smoke-free by-laws are underway in many municipalities. In 2001, major smoke-free by-laws will come into force in the Region of Peel, the City of Toronto, Ottawa, London, and a number of other smaller municipalities. Implementation of these by-laws will need the support of local health agency staff and volunteers.

2. Provincial
In February 1999, an Expert Panel appointed by Ontario Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer recommended comprehensive revisions to the province’s tobacco strategy, including new funding, legislative changes, more community programming and increased media coverage of the tobacco issue. To access more information on the Ontario Tobacco Strategy, please refer to the Campaign Toolkit.

Through Health Minister Witmer, the government has committed $10 million in additional annual tobacco control funding, and is expected to propose strengthening amendments to the Tobacco Control Act and the Smoking in the Workplace Act in the near future. Provincial health agency staff and volunteers will be needed to support these amendments (assuming, of course, they are judged to be effective).

3. Federal
At the federal level, health agencies and interested citizens are writing letters to their federal members of the Parliament in support of Bill S20, a bill by Senator Colin Kenny which would impose a levy of approximately $360 million on the tobacco industry to set up an arms-length foundation to help prevent tobacco use by young people. The federal election will require Senator Kenny to reintroduce his legislation once the new parliament is called. If approved, the funding would be a tremendous injection of resources into the entire Canadian tobacco control movement. There’s currently no other major federal initiative aimed at generating large amounts of tobacco control funding at the federal level.

It is also likely that the federal government may announce a tobacco tax increase in the near future. The health community will need to press for dedication of some of this new revenue for tobacco control.

If you would like to automatically receive an e-mail message alerting you to developments in tobacco advocacy, join the Smoke-Free Lobby.

Tobacco and Health: The Truth Hurts top of page

Health impacts from tobacco use are broadly divided into three major categories: cancers caused by tobacco, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory health effects. While these are not the only diseases caused by tobacco use - sudden infant death syndrome is another excellent example - these disease groups claim most of the victims. In specific terms:


  • There are about 12,000 annual deaths from all diseases caused by tobacco use in Ontario, compared to 3,000 annual deaths from traffic accidents, suicides, homicide and AIDS combined;
  • A person who currently smokes has a 1 in 6 lifetime chance of developing lung cancer, compared to a 1 in 77 chance for someone who never smokes;
  • Approximately 30% of all cancers are related to tobacco use. In addition to lung cancer, cancers of the mouth and throat, the stomach, the pancreas, bladder, kidney, the breast and the cervix in women have been linked either to first-hand smoking or to exposure to second-hand smoke.

For more information on the health impacts of tobacco use and cancer, please refer to the information sheet for legislators, Tobacco and Cancer: The Truth Hurts.

Heart Disease and Stroke

  • Active smoking is directly linked to coronary heart disease, with a much higher risk of heart attack, sudden unexpected death and other deaths from coronary heart disease in cigarette smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Hardening of the arteries and stroke are major additional cardiovascular risk factors in those who smoke or who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

For more information on the health impacts of tobacco use and heart disease, please refer to the information sheet for legislators entitled, Tobacco and Heart Health: The Truth Hurts.

Respiratory Health

  • Major respiratory health effects from both first-hand and second-hand smoke exposure include asthma in children, alterations in their lung development, and chronic middle ear disease. Adults suffer from lower respiratory tract symptoms, reduced lung function and acute irritation of the upper respiratory tract.

For more information on the health impacts of tobacco use and respiratory health, please refer to the information sheet for legislators entitled, Tobacco and Respiratory Health: The Truth Hurts.

Tobacco and the Economy: The Truth Hurts top of page

Individuals who pay cigarette taxes, employers of smoking employees and taxpayers all feel the economic impacts of tobacco use.

  • Direct health care and other economic costs of tobacco use in Ontario have been estimated at $3.7 billion per year. This compares with social and economic costs of illicit drug use in Ontario of $0.5 billion/year. In contrast, provincial revenue from tobacco taxation in 1998-99 was approximately $475 million.
  • The average annual cost to an employer of employing a smoker has been estimated by the Conference Board of Canada to be $2,565.

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