Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Public Health Approaches

Public Health Approaches

Incremental Implementation of Policy
The incremental implementation of smoke-free municipal and provincial legislation illustrates the powerful benefits of a population health approach. For far too long in the 20th century, smoking bans were delayed because of deceptive tobacco industry marketing practices.12 Over several decades, public health officials, researchers, and concerned citizens sought stronger policies and bylaws (Figure 1). Now, as a result of these efforts, laws introduced to protect Canadians from tobacco have altered the public perception of smoking (Figure 2).

While smoking bans have been successful, challenges remain. Exposure to secondhand smoke still causes at least 1000 deaths related to lung cancer and heart disease annually,3 and more needs to be done to protect vulnerable populations.

Secondhand Smoke in Private Homes
The proportion of children regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at home has declined substantially over the last decade, from 25% in 1999 to 5% in 2009 (Figure 3). In addition, smokers who lived with children younger than 15 were found to be more likely to restrict smoking in their homes.4 Clearly, public smoking bans can motivate some smokers to restrict smoking in their homes and can encourage non-smokers to insist on smoking restrictions. Such bans convey a powerful message about the dangers of secondhand smoke and communicate the need to protect vulnerable populations such as children.