Ontario’s Doctors have long been advocates against tobacco. We have called for government initiatives to protect smokers and non-smokers alike, and have played an important role in helping our patients to quit.
Tobacco industry products have no safe level of use, are highly addictive, and half of their long-term users die prematurely. No other industry has caused the same number deaths and illnesses. 13,000 people die in Ontario because of tobacco use every year – about one person every 40 minutes. Treating tobacco illnesses costs Ontario $1.6 billion in direct health care costs annually, including 500,000 hospital days for those ill with tobacco-related illnesses. These illnesses also cost the Ontario economy $4.4 billion in lost productivity.
Patients suffering from a wide variety of tobacco-induced diseases – particularly cancers, cardiovascular conditions and primary respiratory illness – continue to occupy doctors’ waiting rooms, operating rooms and intensive care units in large numbers today.
Tobacco use accounts for 85% of lung cancers, 30% of total cancer incidence excluding skin cancer, and 30% of cancer deaths. Smoking related cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for more than 6,000 deaths annually in Ontario. Tobacco use is also responsible for 80-90% of all cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Ontario’s Doctors have helped to push the Government of Ontario to act on tobacco with a number of policies including smoke-free workplaces and public spaces, regulations on the sale of tobacco, and the development of some programs to help people quit, but we believe that there is still lots more to do. New products and flavoured tobacco threaten to introduce more kids to nicotine addiction, which could last a lifetime. Tobacco is still affordable and available in thousands of outlets across the province, and many smokers still can’t get the help they need to quit. Many non-smokers are also still exposed to tobacco smoke in public spaces and even at home.
Unfortunately kids are still starting to smoke in high school and some will develop nicotine addictions that could last a lifetime. Smoking prevalence has declined, but there are still approximately 2 Million Ontarians who smoke, and progress on reducing the smoking rates has slowed in the last few years.
Ontario’s Doctors will continue to push for more protective tobacco policies, and will help to guide their patients who want to quit, to a smoke-free life.
If you or your family members use tobacco products, talk to your doctor about it.