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Supporting Your Practice

The Impact of Consumer Trends & Public Health Policy on Chronic Disease Prevention

Dr. David Hammond
Professor at the School of Public Health & Health Systems
University of Waterloo

Dr. David Hammond is a professor at the School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, with research interests in chronic disease prevention and global health. He leads international studies that examine consumer trends that impact on national level interventions, and his main areas of focus are tobacco/vaping, nutritional policy, and cannabis and harm reduction policy.

In this conversation with Chiraz Guessaier, Manager CDA Oasis, Dr. Hammond explains how tobacco came to be one of our greatest public health achievements and one of our most enduring failures. He also gives his expert view on the legalization of cannabis and takes an in-depth look at the possibility of sugar taxation.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion…


  • Tobacco is one of our greatest public health achievements and one of our most enduring failures. Tobacco use rates have dropped dramatically over the last 50 years, but around 4 million Canadians still smoke on a regular basis.
  • We’ve been more successful in preventing smoking initiation than helping people quit. All health care professionals, including dentists, have an important role to play in asking patients if they’ve considered quitting.
  • Vaping is a less harmful alternative for an adult smoker who cannot quit. But initiation into vaping when you are not an adult smoker is potentially harmful. The hope is that vaping will be available to adult smokers who cannot quit, but that it ceases to be a cool, fun, tasty thing for young people to try.
  • Vaping is a bigger problem in North America than in Europe, where nicotine levels in e cigarettes are lower and usage is lower. Canada has now proposed lowering nicotine levels in e cigarettes.

“The truth is we haven’t even started to do anything meaningful to help consumers. Most consumers are trying to eat healthy, but it is difficult and confusing.”


  • The legalization of cannabis is a big experiment in substance use policy. The goal is not to promote the use of cannabis but to take it out of illegal markets, to stop putting people in jail, and to shape the products that are used and who uses them by creating a regulated market.
  • Use has increased a little, but not as dramatically as people thought.


 There are biological and evolutionary reasons why we crave energy intake and sweet foodstuffs. But in the last 50 years our food supply has evolved to include a very wide range of products with added sugars that most consumers aren’t even aware of.

  • Price and taxation is one of the most important factors in consumer purchasing and behaviour. Not only does it incentivise consumers, but it also influences industry to reformulate products and reduce sugar content.
  • Taxation based on sugar content has not been seen in Canada yet, but we may soon see it at provincial level.
  • One initiative the Canadian government has committed to is front of pack nutrition labels indicating if the product is high sugar, high salt, or high saturated fat.

We hope you find the conversation useful. We welcome your thoughts, questions and/or suggestions about this post and other topics. Leave a comment in the box below or send us your feedback by email.

Until next time!
CDA Oasis Team


The International Cannabis Policy Study

Full Conversation (23.25")

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