Tobacco reduction – community strategies

Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada. In 2012, over 3,800 Albertans died due to tobacco-related illnesses.1 

Smoking is not only a matter of personal choice. The decision to stop smoking or never start in the first place can be positively influenced by community environments.

When our communities implement multi-component community-wide interventions, they are better able to strengthen four action areas: the social environment, the physical environment, the economic environment and the policy environment. These action areas are supported by community leadership and learning from experience. 

It is important to think and act broadly as you plan and adopt health and wellness strategies that reduce the use of tobacco (e.g., chewing tobacco) and other smoking and vaping products (e.g., shisha) to protect people from second-hand smoke exposure and change social norms related to public smoking.

Multi-component community-wide interventions to reducing tobacco use and creating smoke-free communities may include the development of local policies and bylaws restricting smoking in public spaces, such as schools and healthcare facilities. This strategy can be complemented by a public awareness campaign highlighting how smoke-free communities prevent and reduce smoking initiation, the harms of tobacco use and benefits of going tobacco free and providing current smokers with access to cessation programs.

Although multi-component community-wide interventions are ideal, communities need to start where they are at! This may mean starting with one strategy, environment or setting and then building on it as you move towards thinking broadly about tobacco reduction.

Did You Know: Tobacco has cultural significance among Indigenous peoples who have been using tobacco for thousands of years during ceremonies, rituals and prayer. Recreational use of tobacco is considered to be a misuse of tobacco as it disrespects tradition.2

Ways to take action

All of the evidence-informed strategies are tried, tested and useful strategies that are based on current research. See the methods section for more information on how these strategies were developed.

Changing the social environment is about enhancing community awareness and knowledge about tobacco use and control, and providing resources to support smoking prevention and cessation.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the social environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the physical, economic and policy environments.

Changing the physical environment is about creating distinct smoke-free spaces in the community and ensuring supports to smoking cessation are readily available. These changes can help protect the health and wellness of community members.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the physical environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, economic and policy environments. 

Changing the economic environment can make it more difficult to purchase tobacco products in the community and make it easier to afford cessation services.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the economic environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, physical and policy environments. 

Changing the policy environment is about developing tobacco reduction policies that protect communities from tobacco use and improve the health and wellbeing of community members.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the policy environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, physical and economic environments. 

  1. The Conference Board of Canada. The costs of tobacco use in Canada, 2012. Ottawa (ON): The Conference Board of Canada; 2017. Available from http://www.conferenceboard.ca/temp/aadde16c-ccd7-4014-96f5-3e236687d3ea/9185_Costs-Tobacco-Use_RPT.pdf
  2. Health Canada. First Nations and Inuit health: tobacco. Health Canada; 2016. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/substan/tobac-tabac/index-eng.php
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