Addressing Tobacco and Vaping Product Use in Canada
Addressing tobacco and vaping product use is a shared responsibility in Canada. While great progress has been made in lowering smoking rates, more work remains to be done. This page describes the roles of different levels of government and other partners.
On this page
- Progress and current challenges
- The federal role
- The role of provinces and territories
- Other partners
Progress and current challenges
The Government of Canada is committed to helping people quit smoking and to protecting the health of young people and people who do not use tobacco from the dangers of tobacco use and nicotine addiction. As part of this work, the federal government is taking action to meet its target of decreasing tobacco use in Canada to less than 5% by 2035.
The significant decline of smoking rates in the Canadian population overall that has taken place since the 1960s is in no small part due to the activities and efforts of all levels of government, health professionals, academics, community organizations and other concerned individuals and groups.
Despite great achievements in tobacco control, there is more to do. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in Canada, killing approximately 46,000 Canadians in 2020Footnote 1. One out of every two Canadians who smokes cigarettes will lose their life because of it.
Estimates suggest that tobacco use costs Canadian society approximately $11.2 billion in 2020, or $293 for every CanadianFootnote 1. This figure includes direct healthcare costs such as hospital, physician, and drugs costs, as well as indirect costs such as loss of productivity and assets due to residential fires caused by cigarettes.
New products containing nicotine introduce complexity. In particular, vaping products have steadily grown in popularity in Canada over the last decade, with significantly more people vaping since 2018.
The federal role
Canada's Tobacco Strategy (CTS) is the federal strategy to address tobacco use in Canada. The Government of Canada committed $330 million over five years starting in 2018 and $66 million annually ongoing, on national approaches to help achieve its ambitious target of less than 5% tobacco use by 2035. The goal of the CTS is to help Canadians who smoke to quit or reduce the harms of their addiction to nicotine and to protect the health of young people and people who do not use tobacco from the dangers of tobacco use and nicotine addiction.
Health Canada leads the implementation of the CTS through its Tobacco Control Directorate. Several other federal departments also play important roles in implementing this Strategy.
Health Canada administers and enforces the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA). The Act regulates the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco and vaping products. Health Canada also administers other legislation that regulate tobacco and vaping products, including the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and the Food and Drugs Act.
Since late 2018, the Government of Canada has implemented a comprehensive suite of measures to address youth vaping, including enhanced public education, increased compliance and enforcement of existing rules and advancing regulations to put in place more controls.
In addition, Health Canada's Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) supports innovative initiatives that respond to drug and substance use issues, including nicotine and tobacco. SUAP projects aim to protect people from the harms of smoking and nicotine addiction by means of prevention, health promotion, harm reduction and cessation initiatives.
Other federal government departments that support this work include:
- Public Health Agency of Canada: The Healthy Canadians and Communities Fund finances cessation and prevention activities for certain groups in Canada with high rates of tobacco use such as young men in trades-based jobs (e.g. construction workers), LGBTQ+ Canadians, and low income populations.
- Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada: Work with national and regional Indigenous organizations to create specific plans to reduce commercial tobacco use by Indigenous peoples and provide contributions funding for First Nations, Inuit and Métis projects.
- Public Safety Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Canada Border Service Agency: Play a key role in understanding and preventing the import and sale of illicit tobacco in Canada through policing and enforcement efforts.
- The Canada Revenue Agency: Oversees the collection and payment of federal taxes on legal tobacco products and vaping liquids sold in Canada.
- Employment and Social Development Canada: The Labour Program is responsible for administering and enforcing the Non-smokers' Health Act which restricts smoking and vaping in federally regulated workplaces such as government offices and commercial airplanes.
A role to play internationally
Canada is also a strong supporter of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). As a party to the FCTC, the Government of Canada provides input on global tobacco-related issues and helps to establish international norms and provisions that influence policy on tobacco and vaping product use around the world. Global Progress Reports on the implementation of the WHO FCTC are publically available.
Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC sets out an obligation for Parties to protect the development of public health policies, legislation and regulations from the interests of the tobacco industry. More specifically, the WHO FCTC outlines a number of implementation guidelines with respect to Article 5.3, namely that Parties only interact with the tobacco industry when required and only to the extent necessary to enable governments to effectively legislate and/or regulate the tobacco industry and tobacco products. As such, in line with these guidelines and in accordance with Health Canada's Openness and Transparency Policies, records of meetings held with the tobacco industry are readily available to the public on the Health Canada Tobacco Control Directorate and tobacco and vaping industry meetings page.
The Role of Provinces and Territories
Provinces and territories (P/Ts) continue to make meaningful contributions that help address tobacco and vaping product use.
All P/Ts have legislation and/or comprehensive strategies in place to address tobacco use. Many P/Ts are also either extending tobacco laws or developing new strategies to address vaping. Certain provinces have increased the minimum age for the sale and provision of tobacco and vaping products, as well as implemented additional restrictions on these products or their promotion based on their jurisdiction's needs.
In Canada, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for restricting smoking and vaping in all workplaces and public places not federally regulated - such as restaurants, bars and shopping centres. In addition, a number of P/Ts have established laws and policies that ban smoking or vaping in cars with children, in common areas in multi-unit dwellings (such as apartments or condo buildings) as well as on patios and in some outdoor public spaces. Many municipalities also have measures in place to regulate tobacco and vaping products and their use.
While Health Canada provides funding to support the pan-Canadian toll-free quitline initiative, it is provincial and territorial governments that ensure their citizens have access to this free, confidential and convenient support. Trained specialists can provide counselling, help develop a quit smoking plan, answer questions and provide referrals to programs and services available in communities across Canada.
Tobacco Control Liaison Committee
The Tobacco Control Liaison Committee (TCLC) is comprised of federal, provincial and territorial government representatives who are focused on tobacco and vaping policy and programming in Canada. TCLC provides a forum for discussion and collaboration directed at improving policy coherence and programming efficiency to reduce the death and disease burden of tobacco in Canada.
Each jurisdiction (federal / territorial / provincial) is represented on the committee. The federal government is represented by officials from Health Canada (including the Tobacco Control Directorate and the Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch), Indigenous Services Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The committee is co-chaired by a federal and a provincial/territorial representative.
Efforts to address tobacco and vaping product use are not limited to government action. Advocates including community leaders and non-governmental organizations, academics and health professionals, all play an important role in building evidence to inform new tobacco and vaping policies and programs and educating the public about the relative risks of using tobacco and vaping products. The Tobacco Control Directorate meets with stakeholders regularly to discuss tobacco and vaping policy and programming in Canada.
- Footnote 1
Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2023. Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms 2007-2020. Available at https://www.ccsa.ca/canadian-substance-use-costs-and-harms.
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