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When it comes to hitting smoking reduction targets in Canada, information is power

“We are falling behind by not providing Canadians with accessible, science-based information about available alternatives to smoking cigarettes,” says Mindaugas Trumpaitis, managing director of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.

No Smoking

Elizabeth Ireland
Postmedia Content Works
Sponsored by Rothmans, Benson & Hedges
This sponsored article was originally featured on the National Post website

Canada is well-known as a worldwide leader in initiatives that decrease the appeal of smoking cigarettes. For example, Canada has been at the forefront of taxation, health warnings on cigarette packaging, advertising restrictions and regulating nicotine content.

Mindaugas Trumpaitis, managing director of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. (RBH), is proud of the leadership and progressive initiatives that the Canadian government has shown in the past.

Trumpaitis says that while the best choice any smoker can make is to quit all forms of tobacco and nicotine, for those Canadians that won’t quit, access to all available information about smoke-free alternatives is key. He emphasizes the need for regulatory change and RBH’s desire to partner with government in implementing a new approach.

Trumpaitis describes regulatory barriers around smoke-free products such as vaping and heated tobacco that still exist in Canada, how other countries are tackling smoking reduction, as well as actions that the government can take to help Canadians access information about alternatives to cigarettes.

“Inaction is not an option,” says Trumpaitis. “This is an opportunity for Canada, at the federal and provincial levels, to drive change. We can be a global leader in reducing the harm caused by smoking, but legislators need to take actionable steps, such as creating policy that differentiates between smoke-free products and cigarettes, in order to build a smoke-free future for all Canadians.

“Adult smokers who choose to continue to smoke cigarettes should be aware that alternatives exist. Right now, this information is not easily accessible for Canadians and in a lot of cases, like when comparing alternatives to cigarettes, heavily restricted. It’s very much a missed opportunity.”

According to Trumpaitis, for those adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke, smoke-free alternatives provide an option that does not involve combustion — or burning — created by cigarettes. It is the smoke created by the burning of the tobacco, which contains high levels of harmful or potentially harmful chemicals that are primarily associated with smoking-related diseases.

“RBH was the first tobacco company in Canada to move away from cigarettes,” says Trumpaitis. “We have invested heavily in science and technology to make alternatives to cigarettes for those adult Canadians who continue to smoke.”

Trumpaitis notes that vaping products deliver nicotine while eliminating the combustion or burning caused by cigarettes, while stressing that vaping products are not intended for non-smokers or young people.

Health Canada has stated that vaping can help adults move away from cigarettes. And, in the long run, switching completely may even help save them money.

Trumpaitis shares some additional examples, outside of vaping, of smoke-free alternatives for those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke. Heated tobacco products heat the actual tobacco leaf without any burning or combustion. Snus is another nicotine alternative and is usually placed under the upper lip.

However, it is important to remember that these alternatives are not without risk, they still contain nicotine and are addictive. Trumpaitis emphasizes again the opportunity that all these products present to adult smokers and highlights the need for, and importance of, providing choice to help move the millions of adult smokers who do not quit, away from cigarettes.

In this age of unverified information from sources as far as the eye can see, there is confusion around smoke-free alternatives for smokers. Even health-care providers can struggle with informed decision-making on the topic.

“Canada is a progressive country and we have been at the forefront of harm reduction initiatives,” says Trumpaitis. “But we are falling behind by not providing Canadians with accessible, science-based information about available alternatives to smoking cigarettes. Governments in Japan as well as the United Kingdom and even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration back novel approaches and products to support adults in stopping smoking cigarettes.”

On the harm reduction front, the United Kingdom favours an approach that emphasizes the best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking completely. At the same time, taking a cutting-edge stance on harm reduction, the Department of Health in the United Kingdom seeks to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of alternative nicotine products. 

Canada is also challenged by its high rate of illicit tobacco products. Trumpaitis estimates that close to one-third of cigarettes in Canada are part of a system of illicit manufacturing and trade. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, this trade is known to involve organized crime and weaken public health objectives. As well, these illicit tobacco products are not taxed and do not follow the same packaging restrictions as legal tobacco products.

Without a new approach and more education on available alternatives to smoking cigarettes, Trumpaitis estimates the government of Canada will miss the goal it set for itself of less than five per cent tobacco use by 2035. However, he remains hopeful for action that would accelerate Canada toward becoming smoke-free and help the country take a leading role on smoking harm reduction on a global level.

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This story was created by Content Works , Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.