A Scarborough doctor wants the Royal Canadian Mint’s support in the battle against smoking.
According to Health Canada, smoking remains the number one cause of preventable deaths in Canada. Dr. John Oyston of Scarborough General Hospital hopes to stop the addiction right where it starts – in adolescents.
“Kids don’t see the warning labels, because they never see the packets, they just get single cigarettes off their friends.”
– Dr. John Oyston
He launched a campaign at the start of National No Smoking Week on Jan. 15 to get the Royal Canadian Mint to produce a “Quit Quarter” that is specifically designed to help quit smoking. He hopes a Quit Quarter would especially encourage teenagers getting allowance from their parents to reconsider where they spend their money.
“Kids don’t see the warning labels, because they never see the packets, they just get single cigarettes off their friends,” said Oyston.
“When you start buying cigarettes for yourself, that’s when you’re close to being hooked. At that stage, if you’re digging into your pocket for change and there’s a Quit Quarter there, that’s just another reminder that it all goes back to your health.”
As an anesthesiologist, Oyston sees the damage that smoking does to his patients.
“It’s funny, breast cancer is what people think about when they think of women dying of cancer,” said Oyston. “But more women die from breast cancer due to cigarette smoking than anything else.”
“Maybe in the 50s and 60s, women started smoking and it became acceptable. Now 50 years later, rates for women dying from lung cancer is going up.”
It was the breast cancer awareness coin that sparked the idea in Oyston’s head.
“What’s the purpose of having a coin with a pink ribbon on it? How do you use that to stop getting breast cancer?” Oyston asked.
“You buy cigarettes with money, right?” he added, “So it’s much easier to avoid getting addicted to cigarettes than it is to avoid getting breast cancer.”
The Royal Canadian Mint is “officially thinking about it” while several organizations such as the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario have shown their support for the idea.
“I’m just a doctor … If I write to the prime minister, which I did, I don’t get a reply,” said Oyston. “I just need an organization like the Canadian Cancer Society on my side, and a retail chain. So that’s what I’m looking at next.”
What if his teenage son, who pitched a design for the coin himself, started smoking?
“I think the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim!” laughed Oyston. There are no smokers in the family, given the circumstances.