Health experts commit to a tobacco endgame that would bring prevalence rate to “less than 5 by ’35”

October 4, 2016

The Heart and Stroke Foundation along with leading health experts from across the country discussed the urgent need to increase the pressure on tobacco control at the Tobacco Endgame Summit at Queen’s University last weekend.

“The Heart and Stroke Foundation working with other health partners has been successful in reducing smoking rates through an integrated strategy that included public education, cessation support, smoke-free legislation, taxation, and marketing restrictions and other controls,” says Mary Lewis, VP Research, Advocacy and Health Promotion, Heart and Stroke Foundation. “Now we need to get creative as we continue our efforts to engage different communities and their unique needs.”

The summit concluded with a call for the development of a tobacco endgame strategy for Canada with a goal of reaching a rate of commercial tobacco usage of less than five per cent by 2035, and the creation of an Endgame Cabinet.

The decrease in smoking rates in Canada has been dramatic, from about 50 per cent in the 1950s to around 18 per cent today. However Dr Andrew Pipe, one of the country’s leading tobacco researchers and Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, warns that the battle is far from over. “Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death and 5.4 million adult Canadians still smoke. Those facts speak for themselves – this has to be a renewed priority.”

Innovative and targeted strategies are required to address the still urgent public health crisis of tobacco consumption. Some of the out-of-the-box ideas discussed at the summit include raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 – 25 years as has been done in some states in the US, or banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2000.

Canada was once a world leader in tobacco control, and can be again. The Heart and Stroke Foundation urges federal government action around the following:

  • Extend Canada’s Federal Tobacco Control Strategy.
  • Mandate plain and standardized tobacco packaging products to reduce the appeal of tobacco, especially children.
  • Fully engage with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples.
  • Commission further research and regulate e-cigarettes.


  • 18% of Canadians (approx. 5.4 million people) smoke.
  • Smoking is responsible for close to 15% of all heart disease and stroke deaths in Canada. In 2002, 10,853 Canadians died from heart disease and stroke as a result of tobacco use and second-hand smoke.
  • Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke in middle-aged men and women.
  • Choosing not to smoke can add more than two years to your life.
  • 2% of children in grades 6-9 smoke and 7.8% of those in grades 10-12 smoke.
  • On average, smokers smoke their first whole cigarette at the age of 16, and start smoking regularly by 18 years of age.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco smoke – even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke – is harmful.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen.

Media Contact:

Stephanie Lawrence


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