Inherent in all health care professional Codes of Ethics is the duty to provide care to patients and to relieve suffering whenever possible. However, this duty does not exist in a vacuum, and depends on the provision of goods and services referred to as reciprocal obligations, which must be provided by governments, health care institutions and other relevant bodies and agencies. The obligation of government and society to physicians can be seen as comparable to the obligations of physicians to their patients.
The recent experience of Canadian physicians during the SARS epidemic in Toronto has heightened the sensitivities of the medical profession to several issues that arose during the course of dealing with that illness. Many of the lessons learned (and the unanswered questions that arose) also apply to the looming threat of an avian flu (or other) pandemic. Canadian physicians may be in a relatively unique position to consider these issues given their experience and insight.
The intent of this working paper is to highlight the ethical issues of greatest concern to practicing Canadian physicians which must be considered during a pandemic. In order to address these issues before they arise, the CMA presents this paper for consideration by individual physicians, physician organizations, governments, policy makers and interested bodies and stakeholders. Although many of the principles and concepts could readily be applied to other health care workers, the focus of this paper will be on physicians.
Policies regarding physicians in training, including medical students and residents, should be clarified in advance by the relevant bodies involved in their oversight and training. Issues of concern would include the responsibilities of trainees to provide care during a pandemic and the potential effect of such an outbreak on their education and training.
A. Physician obligations during a pandemic
The professional obligations of physicians are well spelled out in the CMA Code of Ethics and other documents and publications and are not the main focus of this paper. However, they will be reviewed and discussed as follows.
Several important principles of medical ethics will be of particular relevance in considering this issue. Physicians have an obligation to be beneficent to their patients and to consider what is in the patient's best interest. According to the first paragraph of the CMA Code of Ethics (2004), "Consider first the well-being of the patient".
Traditionally, physicians have also respected the principle of altruism, whereby they set aside concern for their own health and well-being in order to serve their patients. While this has often manifested itself primarily as long hours away from home and family, and a benign neglect of personal health issues, at times more drastic sacrifices have been required. During previous pandemics, many physicians have served selflessly in the public interest, often at great risk to their own well-being.
The principle of justice requires physicians to consider what is owed to whom and why, including what resources are needed, and how these resources would best be employed during a pandemic. These resources might include physician services but could also include access to vaccines and medications, as well as access to equipment such as ventilators or to a bed in the intensive care unit. According to paragraph 43 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians have an obligation to "Recognize the responsibility of physicians to promote equitable access to health care resources".
In addition, physicians can reasonably be expected to participate in the process of planning for a pandemic or other medical disaster. According to paragraph 42 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians should "Recognize the profession's responsibility to society in matters relating to public health, health education, environmental protection, legislation affecting the health and well-being of the community and the need for testimony at judicial proceedings". This responsibility could reasonably be seen to apply both to individual physicians as well as the various bodies and organizations that represent them.
Physicians also have an ethical obligation to recognize their limitations and the extent of the services they are able to provide. During a pandemic, physicians may be asked to assume roles or responsibilities with which they are not comfortable, nor prepared. Paragraph 15 of the CMA Code of Ethics reminds physicians to "Recognize your limitations and, when indicated, recommend or seek additional opinions or services".
However, physicians have moral rights as well as obligations. The concept of personal autonomy allows physicians some discretion in determining where, how and when they will practice medicine. They also have an obligation to safeguard their own health. As stated in paragraph 10 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians should "Promote and maintain your own health and well-being".
The SARS epidemic has served to reopen the ethical debate. Health care practitioners have been forced to reconsider their obligations during a pandemic, including whether they must provide care to all those in need regardless of the level of personal risk. As well, they have been re-examining the obligation of governments and others to provide reciprocal services to physicians, and the relationship between these obligations.
B. Reciprocal obligations towards physicians
While there has been much debate historically (and especially more recently) about the ethical obligations of physicians towards their patients and society in general, the consideration of reciprocal obligations towards physicians is a relatively recent phenomenon.
During the SARS epidemic, a large number of Canadian physicians unselfishly volunteered to assist their colleagues in trying to bring the epidemic under control. They did so, in many cases, in spite of significant personal risk, and with very little information about the nature of the illness, particularly early in the course of the outbreak. Retrospective analysis has cast significant doubt and concern on the amount of support and assistance provided to physicians during the crisis. Communication and infrastructure support was poor at best. Equipment was often lacking and not always up to standard when it was available. Psychological support and counselling was not readily available at the point of care, nor was financial compensation for those who missed work due to illness or quarantine. Although the Ontario government did provide retrospective compensation for many physicians whose practices were affected by the outbreak, the issue was addressed late, and not at all in some cases.
It is clear that Canadian physicians have learned greatly from this experience. The likelihood of individuals again volunteering "blindly" has been reduced to the point where it may never happen again. There are expectations that certain conditions and obligations will be met in order to optimize patient care and outcomes and to protect health care workers and their families.
Because physicians and other health care providers will be expected to put themselves directly in harm's way, and to bear a disproportionate burden of the personal hardships associated with a pandemic, the argument has been made that society has a reciprocal obligation to support and compensate these individuals.
According to the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics report We stand on guard for thee, "(The substantive value of) reciprocity requires that society support those who face a disproportionate burden in protecting the public good, and take steps to minimize burdens as much as possible. Measures to protect the public good are likely to impose a disproportionate burden on health care workers, patients and their families."
Therefore, in order to provide adequate care for patients, the reciprocal obligation to physicians requires providing some or all of the following:
Prior to a pandemic
- Physicians and the organizations that represent them should be more involved in planning and decision making at the local, national and international levels. In turn, physicians and the organizations that represent them have an obligation to participate as well.
- Physicians should be made aware of a clear plan for resource utilization, including:
- how physicians will be relieved of duties after a certain time;
- clearly defined roles and expectations, especially for those practicing outside of their area of expertise;
- vaccination/treatment plans - will physicians (and their families) have preferential access based on the need to keep caregivers healthy and on the job;
- triage plans, including how the triage model might be altered and plans to inform the public of such.
- Physicians should have access to the best equipment needed and should be able to undergo extra training in its use if required.
- Politicians and leaders should provide reassurances that satisfy physicians that they will not be "conscripted" by legislation.
During a pandemic
- Physicians should have access to up-to-date, real time information.
- Physicians should be kept informed about developments in Canada and globally.
- Communication channels should be opened with other countries (e.g. Canada should participate in WHO initiatives to identify the threats before they arrive on our doorstep).
- Resources should be provided for backup and relief of physicians and health care workers.
- Arrangements should be made for timely provision of necessary equipment in an ongoing fashion.
- Physicians should be compensated for lost clinical earnings and to cover expenses such as lost wages, lost group earnings, overhead, medical care, medications, rehabilitative therapy and other relevant expenses in case of quarantine, clinic cancellations or illness (recognizing that determining exactly when or where an infection was acquired may be difficult).
- Families should receive financial compensation in the case of a physician family member who dies as a result of providing care during a pandemic.
- In the event that physicians may be called upon in a pandemic to practice outside of their area of expertise or outside their jurisdiction, they should to contact their professional liability protection provider for information on their eligibility for protection in these circumstances.
- Interprovincial or national licensing programs should be developed to provide physicians with back-up and relief and ensure experts can move from place to place in a timely fashion without undue burden.
- Psychological and emotional counselling and support should be provided in a timely fashion for physicians, their staff and family members.
- Accommodation (i.e. a place to stay) should be provided for physicians who have to travel to another locale to provide care; or who don't want to go home and put their family at risk, when this is applicable, i.e. the epidemiology of the infectious disease causing the pandemic indicates substantially greater risk of acquiring infection in the health care setting than in the community.
- Billing and compensation arrangements should ensure physicians are properly compensated for the services they are providing, including those who may not have an active billing number in the province where the services are being provided.
After a pandemic
- Physicians should receive assistance in restarting their practice (replacing staff, restocking overhead, communicating with patients, and any other costs related to restarting the practice).
- Physicians should receive ongoing psychological support and counselling as required.
C. How are physician obligations and reciprocal obligations related?
Beyond a simple statement of the various obligations, it is clear that there must be some link between these different obligations. This is particularly important since there is now some time to plan for the next pandemic and to ensure that reciprocal obligations can be met prior to its onset. Physicians have always provided care in emergency situations without questioning what they are owed. According to paragraph 18 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians should "Provide whatever appropriate assistance you can to any person with an urgent need for medical care".
However, in situations where obligations can be anticipated and met in advance, it is reasonable to expect that they will be addressed. Whereas a physician who encounters an emergency situation at the site of a car crash will act without concern for personal gain or motivation, a physician caring for the same patient in an emergency department will rightly expect the availability of proper equipment and personnel.
In order to ensure proper patient care and physician safety, and to ensure physicians are able to meet their professional obligations and standards, the reciprocal obligations outlined above should be addressed by the appropriate body or organization.
If patient and physician well-being is not optimized by clarifying the obligations of physicians and society prior to the next pandemic, in spite of available time and resources necessary to do so, there are many who would call into question the ethical duty of physicians to provide care. However, the CMA believes that, in the very best and most honourable traditions of the medical profession, its members will provide care and compassion to those in need. We call on governments and society to assist us in optimizing this care for all Canadians.
HEALTH OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLES 2002
A CMA Policy Statement
That the federal government adopt a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of Aboriginal peoples that involves a partnership among governments, non-governmental organizations, universities and the Aboriginal communities.
2) The Need to Address Health Determinants
The health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is a result of a broad range of factors: social, biological, economic, political, educational and environmental. The complexity and interdependence of these health determinants suggest that the health status of Aboriginal peoples is unlikely to be improved significantly by increasing the quantity of health services. Instead, inequities within a wide range of social and economic factors should be addressed; for example:
interactions with the justice system
racism and social marginalization
water supply and waste disposal
housing quality and infrastructure
cultural identity, (for example, long-term effects of the residential school legacy.)
That all stakeholders work to improve provision for the essential needs of Aboriginal peoples and communities that affect their health (e.g. housing, employment, education, water supply).
3) The Importance of Self-Determination
One characteristic of successful Aboriginal communities is a high degree of self-efficacy and control over their own circumstances. This empowerment can take many forms, from developing community-driven health initiatives to determining how to use lands.
It is increasingly recognized that self-determination in cultural, social, political and economic life improves the health of Aboriginal peoples and their communities, and that Aboriginal peoples can best determine their requirements and the solutions to their problems. Therefore, the CMA encourages and supports the Aboriginal peoples in their move toward increasing self-determination and community control. A just and timely settlement of land claims is one means by which Aboriginal communities can achieve this self-determination and self-sufficiency.
That governments and other stakeholders:
Settle land claims and land use issues expeditiously;
Work toward resolving issues of self-determination for Aboriginal peoples and their communities in areas of cultural, social, political and economic life.
4) Community Control of Health Services
Control by Aboriginal peoples of health and social services is increasing across Canada as part of a broader transfer of control of political power, resources and lands. This transfer has not progressed at the same pace across all Aboriginal communities; the needs of Urban Aboriginal peoples, for example, are only beginning to be addressed.
CMA supports the development of community-driven models for delivery of health care and health promotion, responsive to the culture and needs of individual communities. Successful community-driven models of health care delivery generally recognize that the Aboriginal concept of health is holistic in nature, incorporating mental, emotional and spiritual as well as physical components. Translating this concept into practice may involve:
Development of primary care models that are grounded within Aboriginal culture at a local level;
Integration of disease treatment services with health promotion and health education programs, and with traditional healing practices;
Integration of health and social services;
Interprofessional collaboration within a multi-disciplinary team.
CMA also supports programs to increase the involvement of Aboriginal peoples in professional and other decision-making roles affecting the health of their community – for example, increased representation in health-care management positions, and on health facility boards where there is a significant Aboriginal population.
That all stakeholders actively encourage the development of integrated, holistic primary care service delivery relevant to the needs and culture of Aboriginal communities and under community control.
5) Cultural Responsiveness in the Patient/Physician Relationship
As mentioned above, the concept of “health” in Aboriginal culture is holistic and incorporates many components. The concepts of continuity, wholeness and balance within and among people are important to Aboriginal culture, as is a close affinity with the natural environment – both in practical and spiritual senses , which emphasises the importance of stewardship of the land as a component of individual and community health maintenance for present and future generations.
Physicians should work in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples and groups to promote a greater understanding and acceptance of their respective philosophies and approaches. This could include:
an openness and respect for traditional medicine and traditional healing practices (e.g. sweat lodges, herbal medicines, healing circles). This should be balanced with a recognition that not all Aboriginal people, whether First Nation, Métis or Inuit, adhere to or understand their traditional ceremonial practices.
improved cross-cultural awareness in physicians, which could be facilitated by greater contact with their local Aboriginal communities, better understanding of local Aboriginal cultures, history and current setting,
development of cross-cultural patient-physician communication skills.
a) That educational initiatives in cross-cultural awareness of Aboriginal health issues be developed for the Canadian population, and in particular for health care providers,
b) that practice tools and resources be developed to support physicians (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) and other health care professionals practicing in Aboriginal communities.
6) Access to Health Services
Canada is often considered to have one of the best health care systems in the world and is typically described as providing “universal access”. However, our system does not provide equal access to services for all people living in Canada – the most underserviced being those in northern Canada, which contains many Aboriginal communities.
Several kinds of access problems exist in Aboriginal communities:
Lack of access to employment, adequate housing, nutritious food, clean water and other social or economic determinants of health.
Factors that impede access to health care services, particularly in remote locations; for example, language and cultural differences, and the difficulty of transporting patients to tertiary centres.
Lack of specific services (for example, mental health services) for Aboriginal peoples in many regions of Canada. Specific groups, such as women and the elderly, have unique and distinct needs that should be addressed.
Program delivery that involves multiple federal, provincial and municipal funding agencies. Physicians and patients alike have trouble obtaining information about and entry into existing programs and funding for new programs because of jurisdictional confusion.
CMA has previously recommended that the Canadian health system develop and apply agreed-upon standards for timely access to care. This includes the need to increase timely and appropriate access by Aboriginal peoples to health care and health promotion services, geared to different segments of the population according to their needs.
a) That governments and other stakeholders simplify and clarify jurisdictional responsibilities with respect to Aboriginal health at the federal, provincial and municipal level, with a goal of simplifying access to service delivery.
b) That strategies be explored to increase access to health services by remote communities; for example, through the use of technology (e.g. Web sites, telemedicine) to connect them with academic medical centres.
7) Health Human Resources
There is an urgent need to increase the training, recruitment and retention of Aboriginal health care providers. The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended that a cadre of 10,000 Aboriginal health care and social service workers be trained to meet the needs of a complex and diverse community. While progress has been made in recent years, an intensive focus on recruitment, training and retention is required in order to achieve this goal.
A comprehensive health human resource strategy should be developed, to increase the recruitment, training and retention of Aboriginal students in medicine and other health disciplines. Such a strategy could include:
Outreach programs to interest Aboriginal young people in the health sciences.
Access and support programs for Aboriginal medical students.
Residency positions for recently graduated Aboriginal physicians or physicians wishing to practice in Aboriginal populations, including re-entry positions for physicians currently in practice.
Mentoring and leadership-development programs for Aboriginal medical students, residents and physicians.
Programs to counter racism and discrimination in the health-care system.
Initiatives to recruit and train Community Health Representatives/ Workers, birth attendants and other para-professionals within Aboriginal communities.
a) That CMA and others work to develop a health human resource strategy aimed at improving the recruitment, training, retention of Aboriginal physicians and other health-care workers;
b) That medical and other health faculties increase access and support programs to encourage enrollment of Aboriginal students.
8) Health Information
Information about the health status and health care experience of Aboriginal peoples, is essential for future planning and advocacy. For Aboriginal peoples to effectively develop self-determination in health care delivery, they should have access to data that can be converted into useful information on their population. The “OCAP” principle (ownership, control, access to and possession of health data) is seen as integral to First Nation community empowerment, but may prove acceptable to other Aboriginal groups as well.
A considerable amount of data currently exists, though there are gaps in coverage, particularly regarding Métis, Inuit and urban and rural off-reserve First Nations populations. This data can come from a variety of federal and provincial/territorial sources, including periodic surveys, federal censuses, Aboriginal Peoples Survey data holdings, and also regional physician and hospital utilization statistics. However, jurisdictional and ownership issues have hindered Aboriginal people from accessing and making use of this data.
CMA supports the development and maintenance of mechanisms to systematically collect and analyze longitudinal health information for Aboriginal people, and the removal of barriers that prevent Aboriginal organizations from fully accessing information in government databases. Aboriginal health information should be subject to guarantees of privacy and confidentiality. The CMA urges relevant government departments to ensure that revisions to the Indian Act do not infringe on the privacy of health information of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
That the Government of Canada support the First Nations and Inuit Regional Longitudinal Health Survey Process, and the First Nations and Inuit Health Information System, and parallel interests for the Métis and Inuit. These programs should be operated under the control of their respective Aboriginal communities
The CMA supports culturally relevant research into the determinants of Aboriginal health and effective treatment and health-promotion strategies to address them. Specifically, the CMA supports the efforts of the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health at the Canadian Institute for Health Research, in addressing the needs of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.
Aboriginal peoples should be involved in research design, data collection and analysis; research should support the communities as they build capacity and develop initiatives to address their health needs. Ideally, research should address not only determinants of ill health but also the reasons for positive health outcomes.
The CMA also acknowledges the need to communicate research results to Aboriginal communities to help them develop and evaluate health programs. In particular there is an urgent need among Aboriginal communities for the sharing of successes.
That government and other stakeholders
Support Aboriginal peoples and communities in the development of Aboriginal research and the means of interpreting its findings.
Make public communication of health research results a priority in order to facilitate its use by Aboriginal communities.
CMA’S CONTINUED COMMITMENT
The Canadian Medical Association, consistent with its mandate to advocate for the highest standards of health and health care in Canada, will continue to work with the Aboriginal community and other stakeholders on activities addressing the following issue areas:
Research and Practice Enhancement:.
Public and Community Health Programming:.
Advocacy for healthy public policy.
November 15, 2002
SCOPES OF PRACTICE
This policy outlines the principles and criteria that are important for physicians to consider when they are involved in the determination of the scopes of practice of physicians and other health care providers, whether regulated or unregulated, in all settings.
The primary purposes of scopes of practice determinations are to meet the health care needs and to serve the interests of patients and the public safely, efficiently, and competently.
There are many factors impacting the scopes of practice of health providers: broadening definition of health, emerging use of alternative therapies, increasing patient consumerism, advances in technology and in treatment and diagnostic modalities, information technology, legislation, changing demographics, increasing health care costs, and the shortage of physicians, nurses and other providers. Scopes of practice must reflect these changes in societal needs (including the need of the public for access to services), societal expectations, and preferences of patients and the public for certain types of health care providers to fulfill particular roles and functions, while at the same time reflecting economic realities. These factors and related issues (e.g., access, availability and cost) are influencing
governments and other stakeholders to consider new roles and expanded scopes of practice for health care providers.
There is a need to define principles and criteria for understanding and articulating scopes of practice that ensure public safety and appropriate utilization of provider skills.
Principles for determining scopes of practice
Focus: Scopes of practice statements should promote safe, ethical, high-quality care that responds to the needs of patients and the public in a timely manner, is affordable and is provided by competent health care providers.
Flexibility: A flexible approach is required that enables providers to practise to the extent of their education, training, skills, knowledge, experience, competence and judgment while being responsive to the needs of patients and the public.
Collaboration and cooperation: In order to support interdisciplinary approaches to patient care and good health outcomes, physicians engage in collaborative and cooperative practice with other health care providers who are qualified and appropriately trained and who use, wherever possible, an evidence-based approach. Good communication is essential to collaboration and cooperation.
Coordination: A qualified health care provider should coordinate individual patient care.
Patient choice: Scopes of practice should take into account patients' choice of health care provider.
Criteria for determining scopes of practice
Accountability: Scopes of practice should reflect the degree of accountability, responsibility and authority that the health care provider assumes for the outcome of his or her practice.
Education: Scopes of practice should reflect the breadth, depth and relevance of the training and education of the health care provider. This includes consideration of the extent of the accredited or approved educational program(s), certification of the provider and maintenance of competency.
Competencies and practice standards: Scopes of practice should reflect the degree of knowledge, values, attitudes and skills (i.e., clinical expertise and judgment, critical thinking, analysis, problem solving, decision making, leadership) of the provider group.
Quality assurance and improvement: Scopes of practice should reflect measures of quality assurance and improvement that have been implemented for the protection of patients and the public.
Risk assessment: Scopes of practice should take into consideration risk to patients.
Evidence-based practices: Scopes of practice should reflect the degree to which the provider group practices are based on valid scientific evidence where available.
Setting and culture: Scopes of practice should be sensitive to the place, context and culture in which the practice occurs.
Legal liability and insurance: Scopes of practice should reflect case law and the legal liability assumed by the health care provider including mutual professional malpractice protection or liability insurance coverage.
Regulation: Scopes of practice should reflect the legislative and regulatory authority, where applicable, of the health care provider.
Principles and criteria to ensure safe, competent and ethical patient care should guide the development of scopes of practice of health care providers. To this end, the CMA has developed these principles and criteria to assist physicians and medical organizations when they are involved in the determination of scopes of practice.
The CMA welcomes opportunities to dialogue with others on how scopes of practice can be improved for the benefit of patients and society in general.
Tobacco Control (Update 2008)
Tobacco is an addictive and hazardous product, and the number one cause of preventable disease and death in Canada. Canada's physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued ever since to advocate for the strongest possible measures to control its use.
It is estimated that over 37,000 deaths each year are attributable to tobacco use. Tobacco imposes a heavy burden on society in the form of hospital care, disability, absenteeism and loss of productivity. Health Canada estimates that tobacco costs this country $17 billion annually of which $4.4 billion constitutes direct health care costs.
Since 2001, Canada's smoking rate has fallen from 25% to below 20%; the decline has been particularly dramatic among young people. The drop is attributed mainly to a comprehensive tobacco control strategy that employs a variety of different interventions, including high prices and taxes, bans on smoking in public places, restrictions on advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products, and social marketing programs to de-normalize tobacco use and the tobacco industry. While Canada is to be congratulated on its success to date, it needs to maintain an environment that encourages Canadians to remain tobacco free, if it is to sustain and improve upon these rates.
To ensure such an environment, the CMA believes that all governments in Canada should continue to implement a comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategy which should include the following elements:
Legislation and regulation
The CMA supports strong comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government. Many strong laws and regulations have already been enacted; but some areas remain to be addressed. The CMA recommends that Canadian governments enact the following measures to strengthen tobacco control:
Advertising and promotion: The CMA supports a total comprehensive ban on all advertising and promotion of tobacco. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that such a ban is constitutional. Canada currently permits a limited amount of tobacco promotion, and must enact a comprehensive ban if it wishes to comply with the terms of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which it is a signatory. In order to make the current promotion restrictions complete, Canada should enact:
- a ban on the sale of non-tobacco products displaying tobacco brand names, logos or colours;
- a nationwide ban on the display of tobacco products at point of sale, as has been implemented in some provinces;
- a ban on all tobacco-brand marketing associated with the sponsorship of sports, cultural and other events. In addition, the CMA recommends that the tobacco industry be prohibited from using contests or similar events as promotional activities; and
- restrictions on cross-border advertising of tobacco products.
Tobacco manufacturers make frequent use of subtle marketing messages to render smoking attractive and glamorous to young people. The CMA supports educational and public relations initiatives aimed at countering these messages. For example, movie classification systems should restrict access by children and youth to films that portray tobacco use and tobacco product placement.
Descriptors and packaging: The CMA supports a ban on the use of misleading terms such as "light" and "mild" to describe tobacco products with low tar content. There is no evidence that low-tar cigarettes reduce the health risk to smokers. The CMA also calls for an end to brand extensions, such as colours, numbers and code words, which are being used to replace descriptors such as "light".
One way to negate the risk of misleading labelling is to require that tobacco products be sold in plain packages - a measure that Canada was among the first countries to consider in the 1980s. These packages should display prominent, simple and powerful health warnings, such as the graphic pictorial warnings pioneered by Canada, as well as quit tips and information on product content and health risks.
There should also be a minimum package size for all tobacco products, to guard against the use of small-size "kiddie packs" for single sales of cigars or cigarillos.
Access: The CMA recommends that existing regulations involving the sale of tobacco to minors be strictly enforced, with substantial fines for violators.
Restrictions on buying tobacco products should be enacted for Canadians of all ages. In addition to supporting existing bans on cigarette vending machines and self-service displays, the CMA recommends tightening the licensing system to limit the number of outlets where tobacco products can be purchased. The more restricted is tobacco availability, the easier it is to regulate.
Product regulation: The CMA congratulates the Government of Canada on requiring that tobacco products be modified to reduce their risk of starting fires. In addition, the CMA recommends that the federal government set ceilings on the content of toxic ingredients such as tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco products, and lower these ceilings progressively. The federal government should exercise its legislative power to regulate the content of tobacco products, for example, by banning flavourings such as menthol and clove.
The CMA recommends that any new products or product changes made by the tobacco industry be studied and evaluated by an independent research body, prior to being approved for marketing.
Financial disincentives: Price controls are one of the most effective means of discouraging smoking, particularly among young people; a 10% rise in cigarette prices has been associated with a 4% decrease in tobacco use by teenagers. The CMA supports high prices and taxes on tobacco products, and recommends that governments progressively raise taxes as a disincentive to use. All taxes collected from tobacco products should be allocated to providing health care for Canadians, including programs to discourage smoking.
Sale of contraband tobacco has become a major problem in recent years. To discourage the smuggling of lower-cost cigarettes, the CMA recommends that the federal government work with other countries to ensure that tobacco prices are harmonized across national borders. In addition, all levels of government should take the strongest possible measures to control the sale and distribution of contraband tobacco, on their own and in cooperation with other affected jurisdictions.
Sustainable programs: Effective implementation of a comprehensive tobacco control program requires an ongoing commitment by all levels of government. The CMA calls on governments to commit to sustained, well-funded and comprehensive programs to reduce tobacco use, combining policy interventions with educational and social-marketing interventions including mass media campaigns. These programs should reflect current best practices, and be evaluated regularly for effectiveness and impact.
Support for global tobacco control: Effective tobacco control measures such as those described above are required not only in Canada; but worldwide, particularly in developing countries, where multinational tobacco companies are promoting their products aggressively to make up for loss of revenue in their Western markets. Canada was one of the first countries to ratify the WHO's FCTC; the CMA commends the Government of Canada for showing this leadership and hopes it will continue to do so by implementing all elements of the FCTC in Canada, and providing financial support for implementation globally.
Reduction of tobacco use in high-risk populations
The tobacco strategy recommended above involves population-based tools, which have demonstrated their effectiveness in addressing an epidemic that touches every Canadian to some extent. These should be augmented with tools to reach "high-risk" or "hard-to-reach" populations, such as:
Young people: Most current smokers in Canada started smoking before the age of 17, many before the age of 12. Chewing tobacco is becoming increasingly popular among young people, adding to the already considerable risk that they will become predisposed to cigarette use. Young people are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, and to tobacco industry marketing tactics. The CMA supports continued health promotion and social marketing programs aimed at addressing the reasons why young people use tobacco, preventing them from starting to use tobacco and encouraging them to quit, and raising their awareness of tobacco industry marketing tactics so that they can recognize and counteract them. These programs should be continuously available in schools and should begin in the earliest primary grades.
The CMA also recommends to provincial/territorial and municipal governments that tobacco use be banned, both outdoors and indoors, on all school properties and post-secondary campuses.
Aboriginal peoples: Tobacco has ceremonial significance among First Nations peoples; the harm associated with tobacco arises not from its ceremonial use but from its daily, repeated abuse. It is estimated that almost 60% of Aboriginal people smoke. Tobacco control policies such as bans on smoking in public places and on sales to minors, may be poorly implemented on reserves.
The CMA recommends that governments work with Aboriginal leaders in developing meaningful, well-funded programs to discourage tobacco use on reserves, and in implementing policies that raise the level of tobacco control on First Nations' communities to FCTC standards.
Other populations at risk. Some populations, such as pregnant women, may be at particularly high health risk from tobacco use. Other populations, for example people on low incomes, have higher smoking rates than the overall Canadian population and may not have received the full benefit of existing tobacco control programs. Interventions should be created specifically for these target groups, to augment rather than replace programs designed for the overall population. They should address the concerns of target groups in a culturally relevant manner and should be designed with their input.
Control of environmental tobacco smoke
Second-hand or environmental tobacco smoke is an established health hazard, particularly for children, pregnant women and people with respiratory problems. Nearly all provinces and territories, and the federal government, have enacted legislation banning smoking in public places and workplaces. The CMA has always supported this move; in 2003, we committed to holding annual meetings only in jurisdictions where legislation ensured a 100% ban on smoking in indoor public places.
The CMA encourages all smokers to restrict their smoking to areas where it will not jeopardize the health of others, and particularly encourages Canadians to keep their homes and cars smoke-free. All jurisdictions should work toward banning smoking in cars when children are present, and in other locations, such as day care centres, in which second-hand smoke may constitute a hazard to non-smokers.
Accountability of the tobacco industry
Internal industry documents have revealed that tobacco manufacturers knew for many years about the dangerous and addictive nature of their products but consistently suppressed this knowledge, and misinformed the public, when promoting them. The CMA recommends that the federal government initiate a transparent review of the practices of the tobacco industry and closely monitor its activities. The CMA also encourages initiatives aimed at bringing the industry's duplicitous activities to the attention of the public.
The tobacco industry has taken a number of steps to promote itself as a good corporate citizen, and the CMA urges Canadians to be aware of such self-serving moves. Since 2004, the CMA has urged the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to divest itself of its tobacco holdings. Recently, the tobacco industry has made a bid for legitimacy in the research field by establishing partnerships with academic centres or sponsoring research activities. The CMA opposes the involvement and/or sponsorship of the tobacco industry in education and research at universities, colleges and medical research institutions and recommends that all Canadian medical schools adopt policies banning donations and/or grants from the tobacco industry.
The CMA advocates eliminating the Canadian tobacco-growing and tobacco-manufacturing industries and deplores the domestic manufacture of tobacco products for export.
The CMA supports stringent reporting requirements on the tobacco industry concerning all aspects of manufacturing, distribution and sale; this information should be made available to the public regularly. The CMA also supports in principle efforts to hold the tobacco industry legally accountable for the health care costs attributable to tobacco use. Any settlements from such lawsuits should be used specifically for health care (including tobacco-control programs) and not diverted to any other purposes.
Helping patients become smoke-free
The CMA believes that the health care sector should act decisively to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Smoking should not be permitted in health care facilities. Pharmacies should refrain from selling tobacco products, and those provinces and territories which have not banned sales of tobacco products in pharmacies and other health care facilities are urged to do so.
Smoking is prohibited at the CMA and at all its official and social functions. The association has a long-standing policy of refusing to accept advertising from tobacco companies for any of its publications and refusing to purchase or hold tobacco-product stocks in investment portfolios for its members.
The CMA recommends that those few physicians who still smoke become non-smokers. Physicians should refrain from stocking magazines that carry tobacco advertising and refuse to invest in tobacco-industry stocks.
Helping patients become tobacco-free is one of the most important services a health professional can offer; even a brief counselling session with a health care provider on the dangers of smoking and the importance of quitting is a cost-effective method of tobacco control. Physicians and other health professionals can discourage tobacco use by practising systematic clinical tobacco interventions, which may include:
- routinely counselling children and youth against starting to smoke or chew tobacco;
- taking advantage of "teachable moments," such as pregnancy or respiratory illness, to empathetically motivate smokers to quit;
- asking each patient about current smoking status and readiness to change; and
- offering personalized care, which may include setting a target quit date and offering behavioural counselling and pharmacotherapy.
The CMA recommends that clinical tobacco intervention be recognized as an essential part of medical care and a core medical service. Pharmacotherapy has been established as an effective therapy for smoking cessation and should be made affordable for patients who require it.
The CMA has taken an active role in developing and disseminating tobacco-control resources for physicians, their office staff and their patients. In 2001, the CMA and eight other health professional associations released a joint statement affirming the vital role of health professionals in counselling patients against tobacco use.
The CMA will continue to build on these recommendations and its previous activity, working with other stakeholders toward the goal of a tobacco-free Canada.