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Teen smoking rate in Saskatchewan highest in Canada

Canadian Cancer Society calls on Saskatchewan government to do more to curb the high smoking rate among teens in the province.
Canadian Cancer Society calls on Saskatchewan government to do more to curb the high smoking rate among teens in the province. Getty Images File

The number of teens smoking in Saskatchewan is roughly three times higher than teens in other provinces, according to a recent survey.

The 2017 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey found 22 per cent of teens in the province between the ages of 15 and 19 smoked, compared to eight per cent across the country.

READ MORE: Canada could soon put cancer warnings on individual cigarettes

The Canadian Cancer Society said it’s time for the province to step up, and update its laws to save lives.

“These numbers are shocking and reveal the urgent need for interventions to prevent youth and teens from becoming addicted to smoking,” said Donna Pasiechnik, a health policy analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society in Saskatchewan.

“The alarming number of teens smoking shows that this needs to be a priority for our government in Saskatchewan now.”

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While Saskatchewan has banned smoking, vaping, and cannabis use in social housing units, the organization said more needs to be done.

“For nearly a decade we have been calling on the Saskatchewan government to update tobacco control laws to keep up with emerging issues such as flavoured tobacco products, e-cigarettes and smoke-free places – measures that most provinces have in place,” Pasiechnik said.

READ MORE: How the vaping industry hooked a new generation of teens to nicotine

They’re also suggesting a higher tobacco tax, as it’s been proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking.

“We bring in nearly $300 million in tobacco tax but we spend virtually nothing on programs to educate, prevent kids from starting, other measures to reduce smoking rates and that needs to change,” Pasiechnik said.

“We know the vast majority of smokers begin smoking by adolescence or young adulthood so if we can curb tobacco use at that age, we can not only alleviate the burden it puts on our healthcare system but help Canadians live long and healthy lives.”

The survey also found the overall smoking rate in Saskatchewan for people age 15 and older is 18 per cent compared to 15 per cent nationally.