Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 8 - January 2012
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Alberta dumps tobacco stocks

The Alberta government and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) dumped tobacco industry stocks from the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund in October, making it the first Canadian province to do so.  The government had come under fire for investing in tobacco companies while supporting efforts to reduce tobacco use and while preparing to sue the tobacco companies for health care costs resulting from the industry’s negligence and deceptive marketing practices.

The Alberta government has done the right thing by dumping its investments in tobacco companies,” said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health.  “Tobacco places an enormous burden on our quality of life, our health care system and our economy.  The government should not support a rogue industry whose products kill one-half of its long term users when used as directed.


BC helps smokers quit

As part of a commitment to healthy families in British Columbia, nicotine replacement therapies were made available at no cost and smoking cessation prescription drugs are now covered under PharmaCare as of September 2011.

By calling HealthLink BC at 811 and registering for the smoking cessation program, BC smokers who are covered by the Medical Services Plan and who wish to quit will receive free nicotine gum or patches either by mail or at their local community pharmacy once they receive a reference number from HealthLink BC.

As part of this program, varenicline (Champix) and bupropion (Zyban) are also covered by BC PharmaCare, as of September 30, and will be available with a prescription.



All provinces against Big Tobacco

Prince Edward Island has retained New Brunswick’s legal consortium to represent the province with its legal action against various manufacturers of tobacco products for past and future costs of treating tobacco-related health diseases. The consortium is headed by two national law firms, Bennett Jones and Siskinds, but also relies on regional legal expertise in New Brunswick.  The lawyers are also representing Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

The PEI Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act received Royal Assent in December 2009, but has not yet been proclaimed. Preparations for litigation are still in the early stages. The Act has yet to be proclaimed and the timing for it will be determined in consultation with legal counsel.

On September 29, Saskatchewan also announced its intention to file a Medicare cost recovery lawsuit, and that the consortium of law firms had been retained. The Saskatchewan Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act enables action by the province against the tobacco industry for health care costs resulting from tobacco use, including for not adequately warning the public of the dangers associated with the use of tobacco products. The Act received Royal Assent in April 2007.

With this, the 10 provinces have either filed a cost recovery lawsuit, or have announced their intention to do so.  All 13 provinces and territories, except Yukon, have adopted legislation to facilitate a Medicare cost recovery lawsuit. Four provinces have actually filed a lawsuit: BC, ON, NB and NL.


Ottawa Conference

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is hosting the Fourth Annual Ottawa Conference: State of the Art Clinical Approaches to Smoking Cessation on February 3 and 4, 2012, at the Fairmont Château Laurier located in downtown Ottawa.

The Conference has become a recognized national reference point for health professionals seeking to gain knowledge in clinical smoking cessation – an important area of preventative health practice. The 2012 event will amass national and international experts sharing the latest concepts in clinical tobacco treatment, program development and smoking cessation research. The conference will feature plenary and breakout sessions, panel discussions, poster displays and networking opportunities.

Presentation topics will include: tobacco control strategies, the neurobiology of nicotine addiction, the efficacy of various smoking cessation treatment approaches, health consequences and economic impacts of tobacco addiction and treatment strategies for specialized clinical settings and patient populations.

Amongst the presenters, David
Hammond, PhD and associate professor at the University of Waterloo, will be describing the importance of prevention, protection and denormalization in enhancing cessation strategies with his presentation entitled Population Level Interventions & Smoking Cessation: Looking Back, Moving Forward.



US warnings on hold

A federal judge blocked a US rule requiring tobacco companies to display graphic images on cigarette packs, such as of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a hole in his throat, last November 7.

US District Judge Richard Leon granted a temporary injunction, saying the tobacco companies would likely prevail in their lawsuit challenging the requirement as unconstitutional because it compels speech in violation of the First Amendment, which the Obama government appealed on November 29.

The Food and Drug Administration in June released nine new warnings to go into effect in September of 2012; the first change in US cigarette warning labels in 25 years. Cigarette packs already carry text warnings from the Surgeon General.


Non-Smoking Week

The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control (CCTC) announced that Breaking up is hard to do is the 2012 National Non-Smoking Week (NNSW) theme, set for January 15 to 21.

The theme represents the idea that many smokers want to quit but struggle to do so.  Overcoming addictive behaviours may involve breaking established patterns that make tobacco seem like “an old friend”.

NNSW has been observed for more than 30 years and is one of the longest running and most important events in the CCTC’s ongoing public education efforts regarding the consequences of tobacco use.



New pics on packs

According to a Health Canada news release from September 27, tobacco manufacturers and importers in Canada have been given until March 21, 2012 to transition to the 16 new pictorial health warnings adopted in 2011, while retailers will have until June 19, 2012 to ensure all packages on their shelves feature these new labels requiring the use of testimonials, notably warnings featuring images of real cancer victims, the addition of a toll-free quit line number and a web address. The warnings will increase in size from 50% to 75%.

The previous pictorial health warnings have been on cigarette packages since December 2000 for the leading brands on the market and since June 2001 for the other brands. Last October 12, the new warning regulations, as well as two other regulations, including the banning of descriptors ‘light’ and ‘mild’, were published in the Canada Gazette Part II.