In letters sent today to the three largest tobacco companies, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) demanded termination of tobacco industry sponsored programs aimed at youth, and currently running, or being pilot tested across the country.
The tobacco programs criticized in the OMA report, 'More Smoke and Mirrors: Tobacco Industry-Sponsored Youth Prevention Programs in the Context of Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs in Canada' are:
"The first two programs are not enforced, do not address consumption, and - according to our research - are ineffective," says OMA President Dr. Kenneth Sky. "The third, 'Wise Decisions,' rests on a false premise: that young people need to decide whether to smoke when it's clear there is only one medical message - don't start."
"Effective tobacco control programs must be comprehensive, and this includes, but is not limited to legislation requiring plain packaging of all tobacco products, disclosure of ingredients, and bans on all in-store tobacco advertising," says Dr. Sky. "Nine out of ten smokers start before they reach twenty. The age groups these programs target are critical because fifty per cent of these smokers, who continue to smoke will die 20 years prematurely."
"The CMA has been supporting initiatives for tobacco control since 1954. Today we are pleased to endorse the recommendations presented in the OMA Smoke and Mirrors paper," adds CMA President Dr. Henry Haddad. "The CMA's Provincial and Territorial Divisions and national Affiliates across the country are participating in Coalitions, lobbying government, promoting smoking cessation programs and partnering with health organizations to stop the surge of tobacco use."
The three recommendations for immediate action are that:
1. All groups endorsing Operation ID, Operation ID/School Zone and Wise Decisions withdraw their endorsement, and those who are approached, withhold their support for these programs.
2. Ministries of health, nation-wide, create a tobacco industry youth program monitoring network, to assess ongoing tobacco programs aimed at young people.
3. All interested parties get behind the "best practices" approach outlined in the OMA analysis.
"We are challenging the tobacco industry to live up to its stated objective of reducing tobacco use among Canadian youth by committing to effective, comprehensive tobacco control programs such as those recommended by the OMA and CMA today," says Dr. Sky.
"We also encourage well-intentioned community-based sponsors of tobacco industry programs to look at these initiatives with more scrutiny so that their decision, as to whether they play a legitimate role in mainstream tobacco control programming, can be an informed one."
The OMA report reveals that the Canadian tobacco industry programs aimed at youth are copycats of U.S. programs such as "It's the Law" which, industry documents show, are primarily intended to reduce restrictive legislation.
"There is a misconception that when tobacco industry based prevention programs exist there is less need for further government initiated measures to reduce smoking among youth. This is a smoke and mirrors approach, and this report outlines the steps to implement necessary change," says Dr. Haddad.
"Over 45,000 people die every year in Canada because of smoking related illnesses - Based on this fact, the medical profession firmly believes that we need to make changes immediately to ensure the health of our youth now and in the years to come."