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Advocating for a smoke-free world

A long-time advocate for tough anti-tobacco legislation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has been instrumental in leading public education and advocacy campaigns, as well as establishing partnerships with government, health officials and non-governmental organizations to strengthen tobacco control legislation and regulations affecting factors such as second-hand smoke, tobacco-related pricing, labeling, advertising and sponsorship.

The Foundation is a key advocate of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - a unique international public health treaty that came into force in February 2005.

Through this treaty, 86 nations and counting, have committed to comprehensive tobacco control policies including ending tobacco promotions, ensuring prominent health warnings are on all tobacco products, protecting the public from second-hand smoke and helping smokers become smoke-free.

At home, our ongoing commitment to advancing national and provincial smoke-free initiatives has led to our provinces passing some of the toughest and most comprehensive anti-smoking legislation in the world.

Also in 2005 the Heart and Stroke Foundation – along with other leading Canadian health organizations – successfully intervened in a landmark Saskatchewan court case brought by tobacco firms to fight legislation banning tobacco retail displays, currently the most influential form of tobacco promotion to which children and youth are exposed.

To ensure the smoke-free movement continues to gain momentum, the Foundation is working with government – international, national and provincial – and other like-minded organizations towards the ultimate goal of a smoke-free world.

Here are the tobacco-control initiatives advocated and supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario:

Bill 155: Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, 2009
In May 2009, Bill 155: Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act received Royal Assent. This Bill will allow the government to sue tobacco companies for alleged wrongdoing to recover past and ongoing healthcare costs borne by Ontario taxpayers due to tobacco-related illness. The proposed legislation would:

  • Allow Ontario to directly sue tobacco companies for alleged wrongdoing
  • Allow for the recovery of past, present and ongoing tobacco-related damages
  • Create a method to determine healthcare cost damages incurred by taxpayers arising from tobacco-related illnesses
  • Establish the burden of proof required to link exposure to tobacco products to tobacco-related disease
  • Allocate liability among tobacco companies by market share.

Ontario joined British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in passing legislation paving the way for law suits against tobacco companies, and the opportunity to form a strong multi-provincial coalition to ensure cost recovery and comprehensive settlements.

Bill 124: Smoke Free Ontario Amendment Act (Cigarillos)
In December 2008, Bill 124 Smoke Free Ontario Amendment Act (Cigarillos) received Royal Assent. This Bill bans the individual sale of cigarillos in packs under 20 and bans the sale of flavoured cigarillos. In recent years, candy-flavoured cigarillos and other novelty tobacco products have become a significant threat to Ontario youth. Health Canada data shows that sales of cigarillos have grown by more than 300% per year, from fewer than 50,000 units to more than 80 million between 2001 and 2006. A federal government survey of smoking behaviour showed that Canadian teenagers are even more likely to try smoking cigarillos than they are to experiment with cigarettes, and that many teenagers who resist smoking cigarettes are drawn into cigarillo use.  

Bill 69: An Act to protect children from second-hand tobacco smoke in motor vehicles by amending the Smoke-Free Ontario Act
In June 2008, Bill 69 received Royal Assent. This Bill prohibits Ontarians from smoking in motor vehicles with passengers under the age of 16. Under the law, a driver or passenger smoking in a motor vehicle, while someone else under the age of 16 is present, is committing an offence, and can be fined up to $250.

Advocating for a comprehensive smoking cessation strategy
Smoking is the most preventable cause of death and disease. It is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, respiratory illnesses and chronic respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A comprehensive smoking cessation system can prevent or substantially reduce the incidences of these diseases which will decrease the high costs of hospitalization and treatment.  That is why the Heart and Stroke Foundation, in partnership with the Ontario Lung Association, is advocating for the government of Ontario to invest in an integrated smoking cessation system that includes behavioural support, access to pharmacotherapy and effective follow-up over time.

Watch the video entitled What will it take to beat smoking? 

Advocating for government to take action on contraband
The Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco (OCAT) which is made up of the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, The Ontario Lung Association, the Ontario Medical Association and the Non Smokers’ Rights Association are calling on the Ontario government to take the following steps to address the growing contraband issue:

  • Immediately provide municipal police forces across Ontario with additional resources to enforce restrictions on contraband;
  • Prohibit the supply of raw materials to unlicensed cigarette manufacturers;
  • Reform the provincial quota system under which products from Canadian tobacco companies are supplied tax-free to First Nations. Some of this tax-free quota is now resold to non-First Nations Ontarians;
  • Require a health-based marking on every individual cigarette sold in Ontario

Media campaign
HSFO has been responsible for running the government-funded anti-tobacco mass media campaigns since 1999. The campaigns have evolved from providing broad support for smoke-free policies to targeting smokers and their family and friends. More recently, the campaigns have evolved to a more narrow reach by targeting the remaining 18% of smokers, with last year’s campaign segmenting even further to target young men aged 19 to 29, who comprise a high percentage of smokers.

Ottawa model for smoking cessation: Ontario expansion
HSFO has begun to delve deeper into the realm of smoking cessation by supporting the expansion of the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation (Ottawa Model) in partnership with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) and Pfizer Canada. The principle goal of the Ottawa Model is to identify and offer treatment to every smoker admitted to hospital using best practice guidelines. The program includes three main components: identify and document smokers on admission, provide cessation advice and pharmacotherapy and provide follow-up support. HSFO believes the government should expand the Ottawa Model to all hospitals in Ontario to assist more smokers to quit, particularly since these patients are in a teachable moment and experience a high success rate for quitting and staying quit. With combined funding from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and Pfizer Canada this project will help change the clinical practices of 14 new hospitals throughout Ontario and a few key hospitals in other provinces.

Developing a national network of hospital-based smoking cessation programs
With funds from the Pfizer Foundation, Global Health Partnerships program the HSFO is supporting the UOHI in a three year project to further expand the Ottawa Model across Canada through the development of three Centres of Excellence for Clinical Smoking Cessation. These CoEs have been created in British Columbia, New Brunswick and an expanded site at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. The centres serve as regional training and consultation hubs for the expansion of Ottawa Model programs as they recruit a total a combined total of 70 hospitals in surrounding regions and intervene with 20,000 smokers over the three year project. Linkages between the CoEs and hospitals in the different geographic areas have been developed to create a community-of-practice for Ottawa Model programs. The aim of this project is to transform professional and institutional practices regarding smoking cessation in Canada. The clinical leadership and experience that will be developed and reflected in the activities of the three regional centres of excellence will be used as the basis of knowledge translation activities directed to Canadian health professionals and health care institutions. In particular, it is hoped that the provision of systematic approaches to smoking cessation for all hospitalized patients will, as a consequence of these activities, be seen as a “standard of-care.”

Are you a young adult wanting help to quit smoking? Go to to get some great tips and ideas on how to stop smoking.