The Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon, is calling for regulations that would make outdoor patios of bars and restaurants as well as beaches, parks and playgrounds smoke-free.
The society is urging current MLA's and all parties' candidates to follow the lead of four other provinces and 30 B.C. municipalities by making a commitment to strengthen the tobacco control regulation to include greater protection in outdoor areas. Enhanced smoke-free public places are also supported by the BC Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which make up the Clean Air Coalition of BC.
"During national non-smoking week, we are urging policymakers to do one thing to enhance tobacco control and help prevent cancer - expand regulations around smoke-free public places," said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon. "There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, a fact supported by the U.S. Surgeon General and Medical Health Officers' Council of B.C. Children, teens and adults should be protected when they play outdoors."
Tobacco use remains the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in B.C., killing more than 6,000 British Columbians each year. Second-hand smoke is linked to the death of up to 140 British Columbians each year. In total, tobacco use costs the B.C. economy $2.3 billion annually.
"We know that smoke-free outdoor places increase the motivation for smokers to quit or cut back," said Kaminsky. "With the majority of people starting to smoke before the age of 18, eliminating smoking in public places creates healthy role modelling so youth are less likely to even consider taking up the habit."
The Canadian Cancer Society has been a supporter of B.C.'s Smoking Cessation Program, including quitnow.ca, which has seen almost 150,000 orders for nicotine replacement therapies placed in just over a year.
"We believe the government has made great strides to helping reduce smoking rates in our province but we need to do even more," she said. "Protecting British Columbians from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke outdoors and from exposure to smoking behaviours needs to be a top priority for all politicians."
Smoking rates in B.C. are the lowest in the country at 14 per cent. However, in B.C. in 2012 the number of men and women who died from lung cancer was approximately double the number of those who died from breast and prostate cancer combined (2,400 versus 1,160).
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