Tobacco legislation implementation demanded by health organizations
Health groups want to see the full implementation of tobacco legislation passed in 2013 as the cannabis framework is rolled out by the province. (Julie Oliver/Postmedia Network)
Health groups from across the province are demanding tobacco legislation be fully implemented as the province rolls out its cannabis framework.
In 2013, the Tobaccos and Smoking Reduction Act was passed in Alberta, however, health organizations say its implementation has been “repeatedly stalled” to fast-track the legalization of marijuana. Measures to reduce sales to minors, protect workers from secondhand smoke on the job and extending a ban on flavoured tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes have all been put on the back burner to push forward with cannabis legislation, which they see as a serious issue.
“Tobacco kills 37 times more Canadians than cannabis and tobacco legislation should not take a back seat to cannabis regulation” said Kristyn Berry of the Canadian Cancer Society.
“The regulation of a less harmful legal drug should not take precedent over the control of a more harmful legal substance. Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from all harmful substances including the most widespread and deadly form of drug abuse which is clearly tobacco.”
Berry and Les Hagen of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) were in Lacombe on Tuesday to speak with local MLA Ron Orr on the matter. While a recent Leger Research public opinion poll showed 80 per cent of Albertans - four out of five - don’t want to see tobacco legislation take a back seat to cannabis regulation, they say they’re being met with resistance by the provincial government.
Berry noted smoking tobacco and marijuana often went hand-in-hand, and Hagen said it wouldn’t take too much to fully implement the regulatory measures needed to address tobacco use – much of which could also be applied to cannabis use as well.
“One cabinet meeting is all that is required to mandate the full implementation of life-saving legislation that will protect thousands of Alberta youth from the deadly consequences of tobacco addiction,” he said.
“We urge the premier and her cabinet to finish the job on tobacco legislation before implementing cannabis legislation. It is impossible to justify stronger controls on cannabis based on relative harm. This deadly double standard cannot be justified.”
The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta - the coalition both Hagen and Berry’s organizations are part of - is asking for five regulatory measures to be keyed in on prior to the cannabis framework coming into effect.
The first of which includes the exemption allowing underage youth to sell tobacco. Presently, youth under the age of 18 are allowed to sell cigarettes at their place of work, such as grocery stores or gas stations, and the coalition believes tobacco sales to minors should be regulated in the same manner as liquor sales to minors.
They’d also like to see a ban proclaimed on waterpipe/hookah/shisha use in public establishments and workplaces, as well as e-cigarette use. Both, they say, pose significant health risks and promotion of tobacco use due to the similarities between cigarette and e-cigarette use.
Along the same train of thought, they want the exemption of flavoured pipe tobacco, including waterpipe tobacco, which is currently exempted from the current flavoured tobacco ban.
Lastly, the coalition wants a set implementation date for mandatory retail training and reporting to address sales of tobacco to minors. According to a study conducted by Health Canada in 2014, 22 per cent of retailers were willing to sell to minors, compared to 15 per cent nationally.
According to a release, the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act was passed in the Legislative Assembly in 2013 with the unanimous support of the NDP caucus. Currently, the Alberta government is suing tobacco companies $10 billion to recover healthcare costs resulting from tobacco use.
“The Alberta government still has an opportunity to right this wrong by fully implementing the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act before cannabis is legalized in July 2018” said Kayla Atkey of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention.
“We encourage everyone to visit protectalbertakids.ca to let your MLA know that Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco. Protection delayed is protection denied.”