The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit says smoking across the municipality continues to pose challenges, but added there are several opportunities to convince people to stop smoking.
An update on the current state of tobacco control in Chatham-Kent going before the Board of Directors on Wednesday shows smoking kills an average of 220 people a year aged 35 years and older in Chatham-Kent (92 cancer, 63 respiratory, 62 cardiovascular) and hospitalizes 766 on average (341 cardiovascular, 328 respiratory).
The report also shows 1,723 emergency department visits (1283 respiratory, 381 cardiovascular) each year from health conditions attributable to smoking in that age bracket.
"These smoking attributable outcomes make up 19.4% of all deaths, 9.4% of all hospitalizations, and 4.4% of all emergency department visits in Chatham-Kent," wrote Jeff Moco, the report's author.
In Ontario, smoking causes 16,673 deaths, 68,046 hospitalizations, and 125,384 emergency department visits annually, according to CK Public Health. These make up 17 per cent of all deaths, 8.7 per cent of hospitalizations, and 3.4 per cent of emergency department visits from all causes in people aged 35 and older.
Moco wrote it is difficult to summarize current smoking rates in Chatham-Kent due to a lack of recent available data. However, he noted the most recent summary from Public Health Ontario from 2015/2016 stated the current daily smoking rate of Chatham-Kent residents aged 15 years and older is approximately 19 per cent, which is higher than the reported Ontario average of 13 per cent.
"Those aged 20-44 have the highest smoking rates in Chatham-Kent at 23.2 per cent, followed by those aged 45-64 at 19.3 per cent, and those aged 65 and older at a rate of 10.4 per cent," Moco said.
Approximately 4.1 per cent of Ontario students have smoked cigarettes in the past year while 15.3 per cent have vaped, according to the 2021 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey.
Moco said the priority for the coming months is to focus on promotion strategies to target increased quitting attempts in the community as well as the promotion and communication of the new CK STOP program.
Vaping also remains a challenge for staff at the health unit.
Moco reported that the Tobacco Enforcement Officer (TEO) has focused on addressing the use of vaping products in unauthorized places over the past year. He said the majority of those vaping cases happened on school property.
"This school year, 13 fines have been issued for vaping on school property. In addition, 8 students were referred to participate in the diversion program and took part in brief cessation interventions in lieu of facing a fine," he said. "TEO and Youth Engagement staff have worked in collaboration since the beginning of the school year meeting with administrators across area high schools to assist in preventing vaping on school property through consultation and sharing of promotional resources."
Local public health officials said in some cases "vapers" dismiss it it as just water vapour, which they add is not true. Some people admit taking 800 vaping puffs a day, which is the equivalent to 15 cigarettes a day, according to officials.
Moco said those efforts are bearing fruit as two Chatham-Kent schools have reported a marked increase in following the no smoking laws.
Moco also said the 15 specialty vape stores in Chatham-Kent are now required to register their business to get a $300 license on top of the regular inspections.
Efforts also continue to increase the age of vaping from 19 in Ontario to 21.
The Association of Local Public Health Agencies (ALPHA) will be discussing tobacco and vaping at their annual general meeting next month.
A resolution will be coming forth asking Ontario's Minister of Health to develop a new strategy to deal with smoking and nicotine. The resolution is recommending that an expert panel examine the "sufficiency and inclusiveness" of Canada’s Tobacco Strategy target of less than five per cent commercial tobacco use by 2035 with respect to all nicotine delivery products.
Provincial data has determined the overall annual economic burden of tobacco smoking to be around $7 billion, exceeding that of alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, or unhealthy eating.
May 31, 2023 is World No Tobacco Day.