The campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is launching a Vote for Health initiative set on targeting the leadership candidates of Alberta’s Conservative and Liberal parties to gain support for steps toward preventing tobacco use amongst the province’s youth.
Les Hagen, executive director for the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says that the province’s projected targets on reducing smoking amongst teens between the ages of 12 and 19 to 10% were not met since their first anti-smoking initiative in 2006.
“The bottom line is youth smoking rates are disturbingly high.
We’re not meeting our targets,” he said. “Alberta kids deserve first-class protection from tobacco industry products.”
One of the biggest issues the coalition wants to face is eliminating all flavoured tobacco, including cherry, mint and grape.
Ava Dale, a spokesperson with the group said that flavoured tobacco are obviously meant to target young people.
“You don’t see a 35 year-old wanting to buy tutti-frutti flavoured tobacco,” she said.
Hagen adds that Alberta is now trailing behind all of the provinces in Canada as well as all 50 of the United States in terms of passing restrictions on tobacco accessibility to young people.
“Alberta is a real black eye on North America in terms of this issue of tobacco sales to minors,” he said.
Hagen said that a good route would be to follow in the footsteps of many other provinces that require tobacco retailers to apply for a license. If caught selling cigarettes to young people, the license is lost.
The province’s stringent liquor laws also provide a strong base in terms of creating a legislation set to curtail tobacco sales.
“We have to look no further than our liquor control act to find a solution to this problem of selling tobacco to minors,” he said.
Other ideas for effectively lowering tobacco use is reducing affordability – an increase on tobacco tax in 2002 saw a 24% decline in sales – and making the industry more accountable.
The group would also like to see a law, passed against smoking in a vehicle when children are present, much like the ones that are now in place in Ontario and British Columbia.
Dale is confident, though that the community will take well to the Vote for Health initiative when the question of such measures to ensure stronger control of these issues is presented at tomorrow’s candidates forum.
“I expect that Grande Prairians will embrace this issue, because it’s really not fair that our youth is being targeted liked this,” she said.