Healthy Living in the North

World No Tobacco Day: Tobacco – a threat to development

WHO graphic

This year, for World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization has chosen the theme: “Tobacco – A Threat to Development.”

I grew up in southern Ontario near the “tobacco belt” of Norfolk and Elgin counties. I remember the green buildings with red roofs throughout the area: the kilns where tobacco was hung to dry. Many prosperous farms existed in this sandy- and silt-loam soil.

In recent years, the production of tobacco in this area has decreased thanks to the decline of tobacco use* in Canada and the pressure on farmers to stop producing. Farmers are now growing products such as lavender, peanuts, and ginseng and some have started wineries, poultry farms, and apiaries.

What does tobacco production look like on the global stage?

This year, for World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization has chosen the theme: “Tobacco – A Threat to Development.” How is tobacco a threat to development?

Worldwide, the production of tobacco requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizer that can pollute water supplies. Like in my home counties, the land used for tobacco could grow food instead of tobacco, a product that kills half of those who use it. Without protective clothing that many of us take for granted, workers are exposed to nicotine and harmful pesticides labouring in tobacco fields. In many countries, these labourers are children.

Locally, regionally, and nationally, we need to develop strategies to prioritize tobacco control and reduction. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in both Canada and worldwide and kills half of the people who use it.

Tobacco reduction works in communities to prevent the initiation of smoking among young people, protects the public from second-hand smoke in community settings, and increases tobacco cessation and tobacco reduction efforts within primary care settings, while recognizing and valuing traditional tobacco use through cultural and ceremonial use.

World No Tobacco Day reminds us that we can work together to prevent children from starting to use tobacco, protect everyone from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke in both indoor and outdoor spaces, and encourage tobacco users to stop using these products.

Do you know someone who smokes? Encourage them to check out and access free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

*In this story, as in most public health messages, “tobacco use” refers to the use of commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco as opposed to traditional uses of tobacco.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.


What is World No Tobacco Day?

WHO infographic

World No Tobacco Day is an opportunity to talk globally, nationally, provincially, and within our own communities about reducing commercial tobacco use.

What is World No Tobacco Day? It’s an opportunity to talk globally, nationally, provincially, and within our own communities about reducing commercial tobacco use*. The World Health Organization (WHO) states commercial tobacco use kills about 7 million people every year and this number is expected to grow to 8 million a year by 2030 without increased action.

We see the harms of tobacco use in our health care facilities, schools, and communities on a daily basis. Tobacco use contributes to worsening health such as respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease; meanwhile, health care costs continue to increase as we treat people for tobacco related illnesses.

We can act now to stop this trend. Northern Health has a smoke-free grounds clinical practice standard that promotes the health of our patients, staff, families, and friends. This standard prohibits smoking and vaping in our facilities and on our grounds. Many of our communities now have bylaws that also prohibit smoking and vaping in outdoor spaces. These laws directly impact the health of our communities in a positive way!

But, we need your help. We need you to help us provide information and support to people who may be using commercial tobacco or who vape in our smoke-free spaces. Most people who use commercial tobacco want to quit. There is help available at and free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) available at any pharmacy in B.C. Speak to a pharmacist for details. With support and resources, we can help make quitting become a reality for those who wish to quit.

Here are some tips for supporting tobacco users in smoke-free spaces to quit:

  • Inform the person or people using tobacco in a smoke-free area that they are doing so in an area where this is not allowed. Many of these bylaws are still pretty new!
  • Ask the person if he or she would like to quit using commercial tobacco.
  • Provide them with the website for free resources and support.

Thank you for doing your part to make commercial tobacco use a part of history!

*In this post and in most public health messaging, “tobacco” is short for commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Using these is highly addictive and a leading cause of disease and premature death. However, Northern Health recognizes that natural tobacco has been an integral part of many Indigenous cultures in B.C. for thousands of years. Traditional uses of tobacco in ritual, ceremony, and prayer is entirely different from smoking or chewing commercial tobacco. Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional uses can outweigh the potential harms.