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Changing public policy is one of the most effective tools for preventing cancer and helping those living with and beyond cancer. That’s why the Canadian Cancer Society works with government to bring about healthy public policies that will help prevent cancer and improve the lives of people living with cancer and their caregivers. Our advocacy work is making a difference.
Increased transparency: As of March 2017, pharmaceuticals companies must now report on the website www.drugshortagescanada.ca:
- an anticipated drug shortage
- a discontinuation of a drug six months in advance
- any previously unreported shortage within five days of learning about it.
This is a significant step forward and the Canadian Cancer Society will continue to actively engage with governments to ensure drug shortages are limited as much as possible.
All forms of asbestos cause cancer. Asbestos exposure is Canada’s leading cause of workplace death. By banning new products and future use we can ensure that exposure will decrease with time. However, it will not eliminate all exposure. Asbestos is unfortunately already built into many homes, offices, and public buildings as a result of past use. Its complete removal will take many years, emphasizing the need for building registries and other policies to keep Canadians, including those who are exposed to asbestos at work, safe. Find out more on asbestos.
- Launch of public inventory: In 2017, the federal government publicly expressed support for action against asbestos and launched online an official public inventory of Canadian government buildings containing asbestos.
- Ban of all asbestos products: In 2018, the Canadian government banned the use of all asbestos products. This includes the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials and products.
- Benefits for the self-employed: In 2009, the federal government passed the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, allowing self-employed workers to receive compassionate care benefits if they pay into the Employment Insurance program.
- Caregiver tax credits: In 2012, the federal government announced a Family Caregiver Tax Credit, allowing caregivers to claim a caregiver amount on their tax return. In 2017, a new Canada Caregiver Tax Credit was announced with the purpose of simplifying the process and extending to more caregivers, particularly those providing care to someone they do not live with.
- EI benefit for caregivers: In 2012, the federal government introduced an Employment Insurance Benefit for parents of critically ill children. The new benefit gave caregivers up to 35 weeks of EI benefits to care for their critically ill child. In 2015, they extended the EI Compassionate care benefit from 6 to 26 weeks to allow family caregivers to take more time off work to provide care and support to a loved one in palliative care. In 2017, the federal government introduced a new Employment Insurance (EI) Caregiver Benefit. The benefit gives up to 15 weeks of EI for anyone providing care to an adult family member who need support to recover from a critical illness or injury.
- Advertising restrictions: In 2020, the federal government adopted new regulations restricting e-cigarette advertising to places only where youth do not have access. Many provinces and territories also have restrictions on e-cigarette advertising and promotion.
- Maximum nicotine levels: In 2020, British Columbia and Nova Scotia implemented a maximum nicotine concentration level of 20 mg/ml for e-cigarettes. CCS advocates for maximum nicotine levels as one measure to help prevent another generation from being addicted to nicotine.
- Flavoured e-cigarette bans: Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have regulations banning flavours (except tobacco) in e-cigarettes. Flavours make e-cigarette more attractive to youth.
- Restricting where e-cigarettes can be sold: In 2020, Prince Edward Island required that e-cigarettes be sold only in specialty stores accessible only to those aged 21+. Also, in 2020, British Columbia required flavoured e-cigarettes to be sold in adult-only premises, and Ontario required higher nicotine e-cigarettes and most flavoured e-cigarettes to be sold only in adult-only specialty stores
- E-cigarette tax: Three provinces – British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have adopted a tax on e-cigarettes. Alberta has also announced a tax with implementation pending.
- Restricted marketing to kids: We are a proud supporting member of the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition urging governments to restrict the marketing of food and beverages to all Canadian children under 16. In 2016, legislation was introduced to prohibit food and beverage marketing to children. The bill was passed in the Senate in 2017 and in the House of Commons in 2018. Though the bill died when the election was called and parliament prorogued, the current government recommitted to introducing legislation to restrict marketing to kids and CCS remains active with the coalition.
- Calories on menus: Obesity carries with it many consequences for health, including an increased risk of cancer. CCS-funded research has shown that including nutrition information on restaurant menus helps people consume significantly fewer calories. On January 1, 2017, Ontario became the first and only province in Canada to feature calories on menus.
- Front-of-package labels: The Canadian Cancer Society called on Health Canada to adopt front-of-package nutrition labels that are easy to see and clearly indicate packaged foods that are high in saturated fat, sugars and sodium. In 2017, the federal government launched a healthy eating strategy which included front-of-package labelling. In 2018, Canada Gazette Part 1 was published to propose front of package nutrition symbol regulations and Health Canada launched consultation on front-of-package nutrition labelling to choose which symbol to use.
- Canada’s new Food Guide: In 2019, Health Canada updated Canada’s Food Guide for the first time in 12 years. The new food guide moves away from the 4 well-known food groups and incorporates several new healthy food choice recommendations. It also focuses on where, when, why and how we eat, not just what foods we eat. The Canadian Cancer Society was a stakeholder for the development of the new food guide and it aligns with cancer prevention recommendations.
- Health and Physical Education Curriculum: CCS participated in consultations on a new health and physical education curriculum in Ontario for grades 1-8 in 2018. The new curriculum now includes many of our recommendations, specifically around healthy living and curbing tobacco and e-cigarette use among youth.
Reducing future risks of cancer through HPV vaccinations: A strong tool in cancer prevention, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects both females and males against HPV infections that cause 70% of cervical cancers, as well as a large proportion of anal, penile, vaginal and vulvar, mouth and throat cancers. Three of every four Canadians will be infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime.
While both men and women can contract HPV, up until 2017 vaccines were only offered through publicly funded school-based programs to girls in all provinces and territories, but to boys in only 6 provinces. We advocated to the remaining 4 provinces and 3 territories to expand their programs to boys and successfully set the stage for all provinces and territories to adopt gender-neutral HPV vaccination programs. This policy change will reduce the risk of many HPV-related cancers.
- Protecting youth: Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, but it’s also one of the most preventable. Through CCS’s advocacy work, we set the stage for all 10 provinces and 1 territory to adopt indoor tanning regulations prohibiting youth from using tanning beds, which cause skin cancer.
- A Framework on Palliative Care: In 2017, the Government of Canada passed Bill C-277: An act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada. The bill allowed for the creation of a national palliative care framework. It includes recommendations from the Canadian Cancer Society that help ensure quality of life for people with cancer is a priority. The Framework on Palliative Care in Canada was introduced in 2018 and serves as a guiding light for governments, healthcare providers, organizations and caregivers.
- Financial investments: In 2016, the government committed to invest $3 billion over 4 years in better home and palliative care. In 2017, the government committed to $6 billion over 10 years to improve access to home care and palliative care so more Canadians with life-limiting illnesses can live independently and receive the care they need at home or in their community.
- Tobacco and 21: Prince Edward Island became the first province to establish the minimum sales age for tobacco and e-cigarettes at age 21. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death, and the vast majority of smokers begin smoking before the age of 19. Increasing the minimum age to 21 will make it much harder for youth to begin smoking or using e-cigarettes.
- Graphic warnings on cigarette packaging: In 2000, Canada was the first country to require picture warnings on tobacco packages, with regulations taking effect in 2001. There are now more than 120 countries/jurisdictions that have followed the Canadian model. The pictures show the effects of cancer and other health effects of tobacco smoking, including colour photographs of cancerous lungs and diseased mouths. In 2012, the warnings were increased in size to cover 75% of the package front and back and now include a toll-free quit line number for smokers to call who want assistance in quitting.
- Introduction of the world’s best plain packaging regulations: After advocacy efforts from the Canadian Cancer Society, in 2017 a bill calling for tobacco plain packaging was adopted by Parliament in 2018 and plain packaging regulations were adopted in 2019. Plain packaging came fully into force in Canada on February 7, 2020, making Canada’s plain packaging regulations the best in the world. They prevent tobacco companies from using colours, logos and specialty formats to market their products. This will curtail tobacco company strategies that make tobacco products more appealing to youth. Read our international overview on plain packaging.
- Flavoured tobacco bans: In June 2008, after a survey suggested that a high number of teens were experimenting with cigarillos, CCS called for a ban of flavoured tobacco products and urged government representatives to take action against this dangerous marketing tactic. In October 2009, the federal government passed legislation making it illegal to sell flavoured cigarettes, little cigars and blunt wraps in Canada. In 2015, Nova Scotia was the first place in the world to ban menthol tobacco products. In 2017, a national ban on menthol cigarettes was implemented. A ban on menthol in all tobacco products was implemented in November 2018.
- Increases in tobacco taxes: Year over year, tobacco taxes have increased in various provinces and territories across the country, and/or federally. Tobacco taxation increases the cost of cigarettes and is the single most effective way to reduce smoking, particularly for youth.
- Supporting smoke-free air: A series of federal, provincial, territorial and municipal laws have banned smoking in workplaces and public places. As of 2020, at least 95 university and college campuses nationwide are now 100% smoke-free.