QUEBEC CITY – Micheline Bélanger was diagnosed with lung cancer on her birthday three years ago. Teary-eyed, she told reporters at the National Assembly that telling her children had been the hardest part.
“It was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life,” she said.
Bélanger started smoking when she was just a child and she went public with her story at an event last year.
Since then, she said nothing much has changed, except that 34,000 Quebec high school students have tried smoking, 23,000 have become full-time smokers, 7,000 Quebecers have been diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 10,000 have died.
“It’s about pain and suffering,” said Mélanie Champagne from the Quebec Cancer Society.
“Every day that passes by and the government doesn’t act means more death and more pain and more children that are going to lose their parents.”
Quebec used to have glowing results. Up until 2005, smoking in Quebec was declining at one of the fastest rates in North America. Now, the Quebec Coalition for the Control of Tobacco says efforts have stalled.
“The problem is just getting worse,” explained Coalition Quebecoise pour le Controle du Tabac co-director Flory Doucas.
“We’re seeing more and more products, more attractive products, all kinds of flavoured products. We were saddened to see the law hadn’t been reinforced but with the new government and their electoral promise, we hope they’ll make good on that.”
Anti-smoking groups calling on Quebec’s Health Minister Réjean Hébert to move quickly to eliminate flavoured cigarettes and cigarillos, standardize packaging and ban smoking in cars with children. They noted that Quebec is trailing behind other Canadian provinces when it comes to tobacco legislation.
On his way to caucus, the minister said he’s open to making changes to the Quebec Tobacco Act, but not any time soon.
“Not this Spring, we have two weeks remaining for the parliamentary actions,” Hebert said.
Micheline Bélanger doesn’t doubt Hébert’s good intentions, but she feels that time is of the issue.
She said if nothing is done, her biggest fear is that her 12-year-old grand-daughter may fall into the same lethal trap.
© 2013 Shaw Media