No TobaccoMay 31 is World No Tobacco Day, a time to remember that each year 13,000 Ontarians die from tobacco related disease. This year, to help prevent a new generation of smokers, youth from the anti-tobacco industry coalition, Freeze the Industry, are talking to their peers and local health partners about the issue. The goal is to educate the public about the importance of adopting plain and standardized packaging in Canada to prevent youth smoking.

The majority of young adults start smoking prior to age 19, and 95% of ever-daily smokers under the age of 30 became daily smokers by the age of 21. With most forms of tobacco advertising being banned in Canada, tobacco packages are one of the last tools the tobacco industry has to advertise its product and make them appear cool or attractive.

"One of the most toxic things about the tobacco industry is the power their advertisement has against young people. They convince their target that it will improve their life, but it doesn't." says local youth health advocate, Kayle Mervyn. "I joined the Freeze the Industry coalition to help innocent citizens have a fair choice in whether they smoke or not." Youth advocates like Mervyn are educating the public to counter the tobacco industry's well-funded efforts to derail the process. She recently presented to the Grey Bruce Healthy Communities Partnership.

Since public consultations opened on plain packaging legislation one year ago, the tobacco industry has been aggressively running advertising campaigns across the province to try and stop the health initiative. The tobacco industry's campaign questions the effectiveness of plain and standardized packaging and claims that it will lead to increases in contraband cigarettes – neither of which are supported by evidence.

"The tobacco industry regularly uses contraband tobacco as an excuse against pursuing public health measures to curb tobacco use, but this is a distraction from the real issue," said Brooke Tomsett, Tobacco Youth Advisor with the Grey Bruce Health Unit. "Australia's National Drug Strategy Household Survey for 2013 actually suggests a significant decline since 2007 in the percentage of smokers who are aware of unbranded tobacco, who have ever smoked it and who currently use it."

Numerous health groups across Canada, like Freeze the Industry, are calling for plain and standardized packaging. Plain and standardized packaging would prohibit all promotional features on all tobacco packages. This includes things like colours, images, logos, slogans, distinctive fonts, and finishes. Only the brand name would be allowed and graphic health warnings would remain on packages. Equally important, the size and shape of cigarette packs would be standardized, prohibiting specialty packages of slim and super-slim cigarettes that target young women and render the health warnings almost illegible. Health groups also want to see the appearance of cigarettes standardized, at a minimum prohibiting the use of branding, logos, colours and special finishes, and establishing standards for length and diameter of the product.

Numerous countries across the world have adopted plain and standardized tobacco packaging and research to date shows it helps:

· Discourage young people from starting to smoking.

· Decrease the amount of cigarettes a smoker smokes.

· Increase the recall of health warning labels.

· Encourage quit attempts.

· Reduce relapse in those who have quit.

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Freeze the Industry is a youth led coalition that is dedicated to stopping the tobacco industry from developing and marketing products that are enticing to youth. The group is calling for plain and standardized packaging on all tobacco products in Canada.

source: media release, Grey Bruce Public Health


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