Canada May Raise The Minimum Smoking Age To 21

Politics |

If you're a smoker in Canada, bad news may be on the horizon. Assuming, of course, you're under 21, the newly proposed minimum age to buy cigarettes.

In Canada, the legal smoking age is either 18 or 19, depending on which province you're in. But a federal policy paper currently circulating in the Canadian federal government proposes raising the minimum age to 21 across the nation.

Only about 13% of Canadians smoke, but the Canadian state has said that it would like to reduce that number to 5% by 2035. In addition to raising the minimum age, they are also considering banning smoking in condominiums and apartment buildings. In addition, they have college campuses and public parks in their crosshairs.

The news has been met with both support and condemnation. Health advocates are praising the motion, claiming that it will contribute to diminishing the number of Canadians who take up smoking, or continue to do once they've started. But another advocate disagrees.

Plastic Soup Foundation

Neil Collishaw, the research director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, said in an interview with the National Post:

"I would have liked to see that five-per-cent goal backed up with some indication that the government actually had a plan to achieve it, and was willing to be held accountable for achieving milestones along the way."

To Collishaw's eye, the proposed measure isn't thoroughgoing-enough regulation to really make a significant impact on Canadian smoking rates. He believes that outlawing smoking in their own homes will not be as effective as policymakers may hope.

The policy paper also makes noises about possibly trying to push cigarette smokers towards replacing the cigarettes with e-cigarettes or vape pens. A questionable move, as the jury's still out on whether or not these higher-tech alternative nicotine delivery systems are actually healthier for you than traditional cigarettes.

Jane Philpott, Federal Health Minister, says that the proposals have not become law and she's open to other possibilities. "We have used every evidence-based mechanism that's been used internationally so far, it's time to push the envelope. What are those next steps?"

"We've put out some bold ideas, things like raising the age of access. Things like putting restrictions in terms of multi-person dwellings. We want to hear now what Canadians think about those."

There is currently a bill in Parliament that aims to enforce plain packaging for tobacco products, and will beef up e-cigarette regulations.

Every year, about 37,000 Canadians die of a smoking-related disease.