MONTREAL -- Quebec public heath authorities would like the smoking rate in Quebec to drop by nearly half in the next five years, while preventing young people from vaping.

Two days before World No-Tobacco Day (May 31), the Quebec government announced its Tobacco-Free Quebec Strategy to fight smoking and vaping in the province.

Quebec director of public health Dr. Horacio Arruda, along with Monteregie director of public health Julie Loslier, announced the stragegy Friday at a news conference. 

“The face of the fight against smoking is changing profoundly and rapidly. The great popularity and accessibility of vaping products, as well as the legalization of cannabis, are among the new challenges that lead us to review our priorities and the intensity of our actions,” said Arruda.

The strategy, Arruda said, is based on the global best practices to “change the social norm that smoking is not cool anymore for kids or anybody.”

According to public health, smoking rates remain around 18 per cent, but it is higher among certain populations.

With the addition of vaping and marijuana to the market, the government feels an effective intervention strategy is needed.

The measures involve:

  • De-normalizing smoking
  • Preventing tobacco and vaping use among young people;
  • Helping smokers quit;
  • Protecting against second-hand smoke exposure.

“We’ll have to work with youth, for youth, because we are seeing a rise in the vaping proportion of youth in our high schools,” said Loslier. “We will have to work on that social norm, which is a new phenomenon.”

Public health added that preliminary studies have found smokers are more vulnerable to severe symptoms and complications related to COVID-19.

Other groups the government will pay special attention to include low-income Quebecers, people struggling with mental health issues, and members of Indigenous communities.

Loslier said there will be a seperate cannabis-prevention program that will be aimed at directing cannabis users away from black market sources while not raising numbers of users.