Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Canada. Smokers have an increased mortality rate of up to twofold higher as well as four times the risk of developing debilitating diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  

Health Canada stated that they will take action to drive down tobacco use to less than five percent by the year 2035. Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, Associate Professor in the Respirology Division at the University of Toronto and member of the Canadian Thoracic Society, shared his thoughts on the most effective strategies to meet this laudable goal.

Health Canada should increase the tax on cigarettes because a higher price would be the most effective measure to drive down demand for cigarettes.

The age of sale for tobacco products should be raised to 21. One of the ways the tobacco industry maintains their market is by targeting youth, and the further we push this age ahead, the harder we make it for them to accomplish these sales.

Implementing plain, standardized tobacco packaging has proven to be successful in other countries, and Canada should follow suit.

Flavourings in e-cigarettes and other vaping products should be banned, as Canada has recently done for tobacco products, because flavorings attract youth, potentially leading them to nicotine addiction and tobacco use.

Health Canada needs to interfere with how the tobacco industry is targeting youth through entertainment and video games. Anti-tobacco advertisements should be added to these products to counter those messages.

There needs to be more public education on the harmful nature of not only tobacco products but also what the tobacco industry is doing to undermine public policy.

Counselling and intervention needs to be made readily available to those attempting to quit smoking. It’s important that special programs are implemented to target the most vulnerable populations, like those of lower socio-economic status and indigenous communities, which have particularly high smoking rates. 

The Lung Association is in every province and provides educational programs for anyone who wants to quit smoking. Everyone embarking on their quit journey should take advantage of resources available across the country to make smoking cessation happen. “We’ve come so far over the last 50 years to reduce rates of smoking. Let’s use our past success as encouragement for the future success that we can achieve in getting rid of the greatest public health problem we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” says Dr. Stanbrook.

The Canadian Thoracic Society is Canada's national specialty society for respirology bringing together over 1,000 members representing physicians, health care professionals and researchers working to improve lung health. For more information: