Study shows fewer Canadian retailers selling cigarettes to youth

For the first time, the Canada's national rates of retailers refusing to sell tobacco products to youth have exceeded the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy's 10-year target objective of 80% or greater. The 2004 annual report on Retailers' Behaviour Toward Certain Youth Access-to-Tobacco Restrictions survey found that 82.3 per cent of retailers refused to sell cigarettes to youth.

"I am very pleased with the results of this survey and I hope to see this trend continue," said Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. "This increase is an encouraging sign that tobacco control measures are helping to reduce youth access to tobacco. I would like to thank the provinces and territories for their continued hard work in curbing tobacco use."

The survey results represent a vast improvement from the 1995 rate of 47.9 per cent. The rates for 2002 and 2003 were 71.2 per cent and 67.7 per cent respectively.

The most significant factor in achieving this substantial change is the large increase that was seen in all visited cities in Quebec. This was most likely due to many related activities in the province's tobacco control efforts, including heightened compliance activities, an advertising campaign and proposed smoke-free legislation.

Although these results are encouraging, this increase in retailers not selling tobacco to youth does not necessarily translate into a reduction in youth smoking. About half of underage youth (aged 15-19) who smoke report getting cigarettes from retail outlets. Youth will seek out non-compliant retailers or obtain tobacco products from social sources such as friends or family. With still about one retailer in five being willing to sell cigarettes to youth, kids continue to have fairly easy access to tobacco.

The results come from 5,516 randomly selected tobacco-selling establishments (grocery supermarkets, chain convenience stores, independent convenience stores, pharmacies and gas convenience chains/service stations) across cities in all provinces. The study, carried out in 30 cities, was conducted between July 5 and October 4, 2004.

Health Canada's annual reports, which provide a measure of the behaviour of retailers with respect to sales-to-youth legislation, are a valuable tool for evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs, and for better focusing future tobacco control initiatives regarding youth.

Tobacco sales-to-youth legislation has been adopted by federal and provincial governments to reduce youth access to tobacco. This legislation is one of the tools that federal and provincial governments have at their disposal for reducing youth access to tobacco.

The primary mission of the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy (FTCS) is to reduce disease and death among Canadians. It recognizes that the key to success is comprehensive, integrated and sustained action, carried out in collaboration with all partners and directed at Canadians of all ages. Federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health are committed to working together to reduce tobacco consumption in Canada. Every year, more than 45,000 Canadians die from disease or illness caused by using tobacco and at least 1,000 are non-smokers.

The report is available at: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/tobacco/research/access04/index.html

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