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Town of Osoyoos recognized as leader in reducing the impact of tobacco use
The Town of Osoyoos is now recognized across British Columbia as a leader in attempting to reduce the impact of tobacco use.
Trish Hill, Tobacco Reduction Co-ordinator at Interior Health, says Osoyoos has become a leader in tobacco reduction efforts and she mentions our community at every presentation she makes when talking about what community leaders can do to try and reduce the damage caused by cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“Osoyoos has become a leader after town council there banned tobacco use on its town beaches and marina dating back to 2011,” said Hill. “We consider Osoyoos to be a leader in British Columbia for its attempts to provide a smoke-free atmosphere in outdoor public places.
“Whenever I make a presentation, I mention Osoyoos as one of the many communities that is going the extra mile to try and protect its citizens by having outdoor smoking bans in public places.”
While smoking rates have steadily declined over the last decades, tobacco still kills more people every year than all illegal drugs, suicides, homicides and car accidents combined, said Hill.
National Non-Smoking Week took place from January 19-25 and Interior Health wants to remind everyone of the importance of local action to address the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Canada.
One of the most effective ways communities can reduce the harm of cigarettes is to limit their use in public areas and that’s why what is being done in Osoyoos is so important, she said.
“Creating smoke-free environments is a great way to improve the health of your community,” she said. “Smoke-free outdoor spaces are very effective in helping children and youth grow up to be non-smokers. ”
Smoke-free bylaws are not intended to punish those who are dependent on tobacco, but instead to assist smokers to quit and protect people from exposure to second-hand smoke.
“There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” said Hill. “By creating smoke-free outdoor spaces, communities make smoking seem less normal, which contributes to lowering smoking rates. This is particularly important for the well-being of children and adolescents because of the message it conveys, namely that inhaling smoke into your lungs is not normal.”
Communities with smoke-free parks, playgrounds, beaches and trails tend to have lower smoking rates.
In Woodstock, Ontario, 38 per cent of people said the outdoor smoke-free bylaw helped them quit, and 40 per cent said it helped them to stay a non-smoker.
The bylaw did not negatively impact use of facilities, businesses, or attendance at community events.
Smoke-free parks, beaches and playgrounds also lower the risk of toxic litter, which may be ingested by children or pets and reduces wildfire in forested areas.
In the 2012 B.C. shoreline cleanup, tobacco related litter outnumbered any other by three times.
“Public support for smoke-free outdoor areas is on the rise,” added Hill. “It’s not surprising since more than 85 per cent of British Columbians don’t use tobacco. In fact, more than 30 communities in B.C., from Vancouver to Kelowna to Sicamous, have enacted restrictions on smoking in parks and on beaches, joining hundreds more across North America.”
The Tobacco Reduction Team partners with local governments, agencies, Aboriginal communities and individuals to promote healthy, smoke-free environments.
This is done through presentations to councils, advising and commenting on bylaw language, providing ‘lessons learned’ from other communities and encouraging local governments to include smoke-free space in their visioning and planning.
Study after study has proven that 70 per cent of tobacco users “have a strong desire to quit” and National Non-Smoking Week coincides with the beginning of a new year when many smokers make resolutions to try and quit the habit, said Hill.
“The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time when many people are willing to take that extra effort to try and quit and that’s why we put so much effort into getting the word out about programs and services available to try and help them reach their goal,” she said.
The growing popularity of flavoured tobacco products and electronic cigarettes has only made the challenge of health professionals that much greater over the past couple of years, said Hill.
“Flavoured tobacco products have become particularly troublesome and a big concern because of their appeal to a younger demographic,” she said. “You can get everything from bacon to bubblegum flavours, which appeals to young people.
“As with electronic cigarettes, there are very few restrictions on their use. Health Canada is considering its next steps and it will be interesting to see how this growing problem is addressed.”
There are many longtime smokers who haven’t tried proven cessation programs and they should at least make an effort to see if these programs might work for them, said Hill.
To find out about the smoke-free bylaws in your area, check your community’s website.
If you would like to know more about smoke-free living or want help strengthening your local smoke-free bylaws, the Interior Health Tobacco Reduction Team is eager to help and can be reached through www.interiorhealth.ca/AboutUs/ContactUs.
For information and help quitting, visit www.quitnow.ca.