By Michelle Sauve
Based on the Medicine Hat Vital Signs 2010 results, Medicine Hat and area’s smoking rates are 34.8% above the provincial average and a whopping 56.2% above the national rate. Data gathered via the Canadian Community Health Survey indicates that for 2009, 31.4% of the population aged 12 and older in our health region identify themselves as daily smokers.
While comprehensive tobacco control strategies, including advocating for healthy public policy, have been employed for many years by staff and volunteers of the Canadian Cancer Society Alberta/NWT Division, it is clear that there is much more work to be done in order to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco in our community. An important aspect of this work has been generating awareness that our efforts in tobacco reduction must continue, despite a public perception that this work is complete.
Recent provincial and federal legislation (Alberta’s Tobacco Reduction Act, the Federal “Cracking Down on Tobacco” Act” has given many Canadians the impression that enough has been accomplished in tobacco reduction. Yet there is so much more to be done.
The Society will continue to advocate for legislation which supports tobacco reduction, including smoke-free vehicles, bans on flavour additives in spit tobacco, and smoke-free outdoor spaces.
At a local level, the Society is also a member of the Tobacco Reduction Coalition of Southeastern Alberta and works to promote cessation programs, offer information and support and participate in awareness and education initiatives throughout the health region.
Furthering the cause, the Canadian Cancer Society Medicine Hat and District Unit Office has been participating in Vital Signs since 2007, both as a contributor and a grader. This relationship has generated significant awareness of the ongoing need to strengthen our efforts in tobacco reduction in our community. Our high tobacco use rates have garnered significant media attention and the alarming stats have also been featured in the Spring Summer 2009 Community Connections Newsletter.
As a direct result of the Medicine Hat Vital Signs 2010 report card, the high smoking rates have also drawn the attention of Medicine Hat’s Foundation Community Leadership Committee.
Mike Christie, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Medicine Hat & Southeastern Alberta, indicates that “vital activity addressing smoking rates, as well as obesity, is in the early planning stages and will likely include working with the Canadian Cancer Society and media to create an awareness and education campaign to tackle these concerning stats.”
While it is too early to predict the impacts of this partnership, attention to the need to continue our efforts to reduce our smoking rates and the Society’s relationship with Vital Signs and the Community Foundation are integral steps in the health of our community.
Michelle Sauve is Community Engagement Coordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division. She has worked in tobacco advocacy for the past five years.