Manitoba teen cigarette rates slammed | Cigarettes Blog

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Manitoba teen cigarette rates slammed

Manitoba teenagers continue to light up, contributing to one of the highest youth smoking rates in Canada.
The Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey shows 17.9% of Manitoba teens aged 15 to 19 smoke cigarettes — that's nearly 5% higher than the national average of 13%. The province had the third-highest rate, behind only Saskatchewan at 18.3% and Quebec at 18.1%.
"We're right up there with the highest rates in the country," said Will Cooke, tobacco control co-ordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society, Manitoba division.
Cooke said the provincial government needs to invest more into smoking prevention and cessation.
Little Investment To Fight Smoking
"There's very little provincial investment in combating smoking in Manitoba," he said. "Tobacco control in Manitoba is funded to the tune of less than 70 cents per capita, whereas you go to somewhere like Ontario, per capita funding is over $3."
Several high school students in Winnipeg told QMI Agency that smoking is still very common among teens.
"It doesn't really surprise me," said Sisler High School student Juan, 17, himself a non-smoker. "Most of my classmates smoke during lunch hour or spares."
Manitoba's Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau said the province has several youth initiatives in place to help break the statistics.
"In '99 we were almost 30%, now we're about 18%," he said. "So it's heading in the right direction, but we have to keep on going at it."
Healthy Living
Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), Review and Rate, and Back Off Tobacco are school programs aimed at educating youth on smoking prevention and healthy living.
"We're doing lots and we're looking at other things that we can do," Rondeau said.
A high school in Steinbach has recently been a topic of discussion after it decided to build a shelter for students and staff to smoke on campus.
While school divisions across the province did away with smoking areas years ago, Steinbach Regional Secondary school re-established one after complaints from neighbours about kids congregating to smoke in other areas.
Hanover School Division Supt. Ken Klassen said the move is a "temporary exception being allowed for one school."
"This does not indicate any relaxing of our commitment to promoting smoking cessation. It does indicate a commitment to being socially responsible neighbours," he wrote in an e-mail.
Still, Cooke said the Cancer Society is "disappointed" in the decision.
"(We) consider it to be a step backwards," he said.
(with files from Jason Halstead)

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