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Ottawa Public Health recommends cigarette ban for anyone born after 2008, raise minimum age of smoking

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is recommending that Health Canada introduce a New Zealand-style law of banning an entire generation from being able to purchase tobacco and raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes to 21 and older.

In a submission by Ottawa medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches to Health Canada on Nov. 23, Etches made recommendations in a memo on a review of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act.

Etches outlines a number of recommendations including a full-scale ban on anyone born after 2008 from purchasing cigarettes.

The policy to implement a generational smoking ban was championed by New Zealand, who last year banned the sale of tobacco to anyone born after Jan. 1 2009.

Less than a year after passing the world-leading tobacco ban, the country decided to scrap the policy this month. The United Kingdom is looking into passing a similar ban.

OPH is hoping to reduce the number of smokers to five per cent among the Canadian population, from the current 12 per cent according the Statistics Canada.

"By following a similar approach, it is recommended that Canada adapt New Zealand’s approach to reach the same five per cent target," the memo to Health Canada said.

Smoking leads to more than eight million deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization – with one in four people across the world using tobacco.

Canada has some of the strictest policies on smoking in the world. It became the first country to implement health warnings on individual cigarettes, a policy that will be phased in over the next two years.

OPH says a growing issue is youth access to smoking. It is asking Health Canada to amend smoking laws to increase the federal minimum age for the purchase of tobacco to 21 years old, with the exception of smoking cessation products.

The health body says it has noticed a 'significant' increase in non-compliance for selling to a person under 19 by tobacco vendors in the city of Ottawa.

"From January to October 2023, the TEOs have issued 114 charges and 7 warnings while performing youth access inspections. The previous record for charges relating to selling to youth was 110 charges in 2011," the memo read.

Etches is also asking Health Canada to target online advertising and 'new and unregulated media' including by influencers who make content for streaming and on social media. This would include a regulation and enforcement strategy to restrict online cigarette advertising.

"An ever-changing media and technology landscape continue to create openings for harmful promotion and normalization of tobacco and nicotine products," OPH said

OPH noted that youth vaping is on the rise surpassing tobacco smoking rates from 2021 with 13 per cent of youth 15 to 19 years of age and 17 per cent of youth 20 to 24 years of age reporting vaping, compared to four per cent of adults 25 years and older.

Etches is asking the federal government to amend the Non-Smokers' Health Act to include non-smoking and non-vaping provisions on outdoor federal lands which includes parks, trails, lands and beaches.

Currently, no outdoor federal amenities are included in any federal, provincial or local smoke-free/vape-free regulations.

The City of Ottawa's Smoking and Vaping By-law prohibits smoking and vaping on all outdoor municipal property.

Canada has experienced a decline in overall smoking rates. In 2018, 15.8 per cent of Canadians 12 and older smoked cigarettes with the smoking rates falling 1 to 2 per cent annually to a rate of 11.8 per cent in 2021.

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