A local coalition of carcinogen-hating activists launched a new campaign Tuesday targeting high smoking rates among youth in the province.
“The bottom line is youth smoking rates are disturbingly high,” said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), one of the organizations working on the campaign. “Though we have reduced tobacco use rates in the general population, a problem remains among our youth.”
The group’s Campaign for a Smoke Free Alberta is intended to curb smoking rates in Alberta, with an emphatic focus on youth.
The coalition has launched a secondary campaign this year dubbed Vote for Health and has released a survey targeting those running for leadership of the Conservatives and Liberals.
“We have sent out surveys to each leadership candidate asking for they’re stance on certain anti-smoking legislation,” said Leigh Allard, President and CEO of The Lung Association for Alberta. “The surveys will be completed before the election in September, which should give the public time to assess their leader’s stance on tobacco use.”
Allard says it’s crucial for Albertans to vote for candidates who are interested in taking action against tobacco use.
“We have several goals, including implementing a ban on flavoured tobacco products, making vehicles carrying children smoke-free and reducing tobacco sales to minors,” said Allard. “’Vote for Health’ will encourage the public to connect with the candidates and find out where their candidate stands.”
In 2008, the coalition ran a similar campaign, during the last leadership election, that led to the ban on smoking in public places, and the removal of tobacco products from post-secondary institutions and pharmacies, said Hagen.
“It was very successful previously, and we had a lot of candidates commit to the campaign, which brought about great results,” said Hagen. “We want to see that happen again.”
According to the group, about 13%, or more than one in eight teens in Alberta smoke and tobacco kills an estimated 3,000 Albertans annually.
The group is urging Edmontonians to get out and get educated on the perils of smoking tobacco, and to take those concerns to their leadership candidates.
“We have suggestions on our website for approaching candidates at public forums, personal appearances and through e-mails and social media,” explained Leigh Allard, President and CEO of The Lung Association, Alberta and NWT. “We’ll also post information about where the candidates will be in the coming weeks. We urge all Albertans to get involved by contacting the candidates over the summer.”