Every 11.5 minutes in Canada a bell tolls. It’s not ringing in celebration. It tolls to announce another Canadian has died. Over 45000 a year, at an estimated 6.5 billion dollars a year in direct health costs.
More than the Opioid Crisis. More than auto accidents. In fact, more Canadians die from smoking-related causes every year than the number of Canadian Military deaths in World War 2 (1939-1947). About 1000 more.
Since the Royal College of Physicians in the UK published their landmark report “Smoking and Health” in 1962 (a document that would form a cornerstone for modern anti-smoking organisations and government tobacco control), the message has been simple; “Quit or Die”.
That’s it. Either stop smoking, or get emphysema, or cancer, or cardiovascular disease and die. For 50 years that has been the message, and the justification for increasing levels of taxation, educational pressure tactics, social pressure tactics, societal pressure tactics, and scare tactics, and it worked well for a while. In 1965 roughly 50% of the Canadian population smoked, and by 2015 we were down to just below 15%.
Every time the law of diminishing returns would kick in, taxes would go up, new graphic images and warnings would go on cigarette packages, smokers would be pushed not only outside, but at increasing distances from doors and air intakes, the warnings and statements of harm to self and others got stronger, more dire, more militant.
We forgot that in any addicted population there is a scale of entrapment that spans from those who can quit with seemingly relative ease, through those who require effort of varying degrees, to those who can’t or won’t quit with existing intervention measures.
We forgot that smokers react to pressure, stress, shame, and fear, by smoking.
We forgot that the war is on the harm caused by smoking and started waging war on smokers. For their own good of course.
What if you were told that it doesn’t have to be that way?
In 2015 the same Royal College of Physicians published another report that identified an existing consumer product that they said is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harms associated with smoked tobacco products and may well be substantially lower than that. They said it again in 2017. They said it a third time in 2018.
Remember the big headlines in all the newspapers? The press releases by public health bodies and the anti-smoking organizations?
No. You don’t. Because there weren’t any.
What if you were told the properties of this consumer product were so appealing to smokers that it created an industry, operated largely by former smokers, targeting current smokers. Promoted by word of mouth, across Canada?
Well from 2009 to 2018, Health Canada said the product was illegal to import or sell, and the anti-smoking organizations told you that industry was “Big Tobacco” and they were coming after your children.
What if you were told a recent clinical trial showed this consumer product was twice as effective as Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
You probably missed that one while being introduced to the new message, not one focused on smoking and death, but one focused on adolescents and flavours and nicotine.
Nicotine. A product so addictive, so appealing, and so dangerous, that when it’s available outside of smoking, those same adolescents can walk into any drug store, pick it up off the display rack, and buy it in a patch, a gum, or a candy sized lozenge in mint or fruit flavours.
They don’t even need I.D.
What if I told you what this consumer product was?
I can’t. Not here. The same law that made the product legal in May of 2018 made it illegal for me to mention it in comparison to smoking. Only Health Canada can do that.
Every 11.5 minutes, 5 million Canadians play a grim round of Russian Roulette and someone loses a parent, a grandparent, a child, an uncle, an aunt, a brother, or a sister.
They need to know that it doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be “quit or die.”
The people who should be telling them, aren’t.
The people who desperately want to tell them, can’t…
…and every 11.5 minutes, one of them dies.