Smoking in cars update…
Alberta unveils sweeping new tobacco restrictions -AB
November 7, 2013
By Keith Gerein, Edmonton Journal
Albertans could soon be banned from smoking in cars carrying children, stopped from using water pipes in public, and will lose access to flavoured tobacco products under new restrictions proposed Monday by the provincial government.
The rules are largely designed to keep tobacco and its harmful effects away from minors, Health Minister Fred Horne said.
“We have to take a stand on things that are root cause contributors to chronic disease in our society, many of which can be attributed to smoking,” Horne told a news conference at Harry Ainlay High School.
He said Albertan smokers typically start around age 14, and end up costing the province an estimated $1.8 billion a year in health expenses.
Enforcement of the ban on smoking in vehicles when children are present will be complaint-based, and would usually result in a ticket of $250 — though the province will have the power to levy fines of up to $5,000 for multiple violations. Legislation containing a similar ban was passed, but never proclaimed, more than a year ago.
Les Hagen, director of the anti-tobacco advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health, praised the long-awaited package of new restrictions, which he believes will make the province a leader in North America.
“This is a huge step forward for public health in Alberta and will prevent thousands of young Albertans from taking up tobacco use,” Hagen said.
The changes will be accomplished in two bills.
Bill 206, a private member’s bill supported by Calgary MLA Christine Cusanelli, has already been under debate in the legislature. Horne said Thursday the government has decided to back the bill, which includes provisions for banning the sale of tobacco with a “characterizing flavour,” such as candy-scented cigars and cigarillos and fruity spit tobacco.
However, the government has not yet committed to banning menthol cigarettes — an issue that Hagen believes has been the centrepiece of tobacco industry lobbying of MLAs.
“Menthol has to be part of a flavoured tobacco ban,” he said. “It’s the worst flavouring of all. It has a medicinal impact, soothes the throat, opens the airways, and it assists with nicotine absorption into the bloodstream.”
Cusanelli said decisions on which specific products to ban will come later.
While agreeing on the need to protect youth, Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw said the government is taking a heavy-handed approach. He said responsible adults should be allowed to buy what they want, rhetorically asking fellow MLAs if the province should also ban flavoured alcohol or brightly coloured firearms because they might appeal to kids.
A recent study found that close to 30,000 Alberta teens use some form of flavoured tobacco.
The second piece of legislation, Bill 33, bans the use of “tobacco-like products” such as water pipes in bars, restaurants or other public places where smoking is already prohibited.
Horne said establishments will be given 12 to 18 months to transition to the new rules.
However, Riad and Ghada Ghazal worry the new legislation will force them to close Co Co Di, their Mediterranean restaurant on Jasper Avenue and 114th Street.
Traditionally, shisha smokers have used water pipes, or hookahs, to smoke flavoured tobacco, but since tobacco smoking is banned in restaurants, Canadian proprietors instead sell a fruit-flavoured herbal mix.
“Shisha is 80 per cent, if not more, of our sales,” Ghada Ghazal said. “People come here to smoke shisha, socialize and eat.”
Riad Ghazal said smoking shisha is a tradition in Lebanon, where the couple is from.
The Ghazals are part of Safe Shisha, a group of restaurant owners who want to see the shisha industry regulated, including minimum standards for ventilation and a special licence for shisha establishments.
“I think the government took a bit of a wrong turn,” said Don Martin, a lobbyist for the group.
He estimated 70 establishments across the province will close and at least 400 unskilled jobs will be lost.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. James Talbot, said recent research has found the products in water pipes often contain cancer-causing chemicals, and may pose a threat to the health of anyone who comes into contact with the smoke.
Bill 33 will also prevent some tobacco products from being sold in small quantities or singles, which makes them more affordable for youth.
In addition, it creates a provincial ban on sales of tobacco to minors. Horne said federal law already prevents this, but “is not as enforced as rigorously as we would like.
“This kind of strengthens our ability to deal with retailers and to tailor our own enforcement mechanisms rather than rely on federal legislation.”
With files from Cailynn Klingbeil
Drivers, like smokers, assault our health
May 4, 2013
Why is it that society condemns smoking in public when, every morning, millions of people fire up their personal chariots creating pollution problems for innocents who have not made that choice? Smokers, like drivers, have made their choice that they can live with dangers to their health for the sake of the convenience and pleasures of their vice.
How are these two actions any different? Are they both not made for the user’s convenience and pleasure? Are they both not a personal assault on the rights, health and well-being of other parties who have not made that choice?
Bob Saunders, Hamilton
Alberta to ban smoking in cars carrying children
March 19, 2012
By Keith Gerein, edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON – In a rare moment of partisan agreement prior to the provincial election, Alberta MLAs have approved an opposition bill that will make it illegal to smoke in vehicles when children are present.
The bill, championed by Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, unanimously passed third reading in the legislature late Monday.
“We disagree on many things but my plea to everyone was that this bill was a no-brainer and the right thing to do,” Sherman said.
“I’m very pleased to see MLAs from all parties put everything else aside and passed the bill.”
It’s unclear when the legislation might come into effect. Sherman’s bill originally called for a implementation date of Jan. 1, 2013, but he later agreed to an amendment that has no fixed date.
Some Conservative members, including Health Minister Fred Horne, said they would like time to simultaneously bring in a variety of other tobacco-reduction measures.
The government is currently working on such a strategy, which could include higher tobacco taxes, tougher restrictions on flavoured tobacco products that appeal to minors, and a crackdown on sales to minors.
The legislation must still receive royal assent and proclamation before it becomes law, though it’s unclear whether the government will pursue these steps before or after the election.
“It’s a great bill and it will go along way to protecting the health of children, particularly in confined spaces where they are exposed to second-hand smoke,” said Les Hagen, executive director of advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health.
“It’s great to see that the health of children takes precedence over party politics, particularly at election time. This is about setting a new social standard and sending a message that we need to protect kids from tobacco.”
He said a recent Lung Association poll of junior-high students in Alberta found 30 per cent of them are exposed to smoke in vehicles at least once a week.
If passed, smokers will be prohibited from lighting up in a car when anyone under the age of 18 is inside.
A $1,000 fine would be levied for a first offence, though Hagen believes a ticketing procedure will be introduced that would allow for a smaller fine for those who avoid the courts.
One Tory MLA, David Xiao, suggested broadening the bill to include people with mental disabilities who might not understand the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Veteran Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald said he could not recall another opposition bill that has survived third reading. He said a bill introduced by a Liberal MLA in the mid 1990s passed second reading, but then went no further.
If the bill does receive final proclamation, Alberta will become the ninth province to implement such legislation, Hagen said. Quebec will be the lone holdout.
Sherman introduced similar legislation in 2008 when he was a Tory MLA, but it fell off the order paper.
Currently, two Alberta municipalities have bylaws banning smoking in cars when minors are around.
Okotoks was the first in 2008, followed by Leduc, which put its bylaw into effect last July with a $100 fine for a first offence.