Tough new rules tackle smoking dangers

By Jasminee Sahoye

Starting Jan. 1, the Ontario government is banning smoking in children’s playgrounds, publicly owned sports fields, and restaurant and bar patios.

Also, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act will be revised to bar the sale of tobacco on university and college campuses from the same date.

Changes to the act will replace a patchwork of municipal regulations governing smoking on restaurant and bar patios and near playgrounds.

So why this move?

Statistics show tobacco claims 13,000 lives in Ontario each year and costs the province’s health care system an estimated $2.2 billion in direct costs and another $5.3 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity.

The Canadian Cancer Society calls the new regulations “courageous” and says they will “help denormalize tobacco use and provide greater protection from outdoor second-hand smoke for Ontarians.”

Each day, 100 Canadians die of a smoking-related illness. And according to the Government of Canada website, smoking is linked to more than two dozen diseases and conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Most of these start to reverse after you quit smoking.

Smokers are at increased risk for problems with their heart and blood vessels; certain types of cancers; lung and respiratory problems; other health issues and premature death.

Female smokers are at increased risk for cancer of the cervix; problems with periods (menstrual problems); problems getting pregnant (fertility problems); premature delivery and having a low birth weight baby, according to health experts.

Male smokers are at increased risk for problems with erections (impotence/erectile dysfunction) and other sexual health.

Cigar and pipe smokers experience the same types of health problems as cigarette smokers, according to public health officials. They say smokeless tobacco (including chewing tobacco and snuff) also contains many of the same harmful and addictive substances as cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. Smokeless tobacco is a major cause of cancer of the mouth and throat. It can also cause serious dental health problems, including receding gums, tooth loss, and discoloured teeth and gums.

The Government of Canada website also states “of the more than 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke, hundreds are toxic including hydrogen cyanide, lead, acetone, arsenic, and formaldehyde. At least 70 of these chemicals are carcinogens (known to cause cancer).”

The World Health Organisation says breathing second-hand smoke causes over 800 deaths in Canadian non-smokers from lung cancer and heart disease every year. Second-hand smoke is the combination of smoke coming directly from a burning tobacco product and the smoke exhaled by a person smoking.

People exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for heart problems, lung cancer, breathing problems (like more severe asthma), excessive coughing, throat irritation and premature death.

Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for respiratory illnesses; more frequent and more severe asthma attacks (among those with asthma); ear infections; phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness and decreased level of lung function.

Children are especially at risk from second-hand smoke because their breathing (respiratory) and immune systems are still developing.

Women exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy are at increased risk of problems with their health and the health of their unborn baby. They are also at increased risk of having a low birth weight baby.