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Alberta youth aged 12-19 smoke 530,000 cigarettes every day. Here's how you can help prevent youth smoking in Alberta.

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POLL REVEALS STRONG PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR REINVESTING TOBACCO TAXES
Monday, 06 February 2017 15:14

POLL REVEALS STRONG PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR REINVESTING TOBACCO TAXES

Edmonton – A recent online survey of 1,005 Albertans conducted by Leger Research reveals that 75 percent of respondents want the Alberta government to reinvest one-third of tobacco taxes in effective strategies to help smokers quit and to keep youth from starting to use tobacco.

“The Alberta government does not dedicate a single dime of the one billion dollars it collects annually from tobacco taxes to help smokers quit or keeping kids tobacco-free” said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking & Health (ASH).  “The survey results reveal that Albertans expect the government to reinvest a significant portion of tobacco tax revenue into tobacco reduction and prevention.  If the government can reinvest a substantial portion of the carbon levy into carbon reduction, then surely it can reinvest a portion of tobacco taxes into tobacco reduction.  This deadly double standard cannot be justified.  What’s good for carbon reduction is good for tobacco reduction”.

The Alberta government provides some funding for tobacco reduction out of the Alberta Health budget.  However these funds are not derived from dedicated tobacco taxes.  The Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy is largely unfunded and unimplemented and provincial smoking rates remain above the national average.  The government is currently spending about $4 million in direct programs and services to reduce tobacco use—or about on dollar per capita.  This marginal investment represents less than one percent of the one billion dollars collected annually from tobacco taxes.

“Albertans will be appalled to learn that the tobacco reduction strategy is being allowed to flounder while the government collects over one billion in tobacco taxes annually” said Kayla Atkey of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention.  “We are urging the government to increase its investment in tobacco reduction to at least $20 million annually or about two percent of total tobacco revenues.  The provincial government will not meet its ambitious 10-year tobacco reduction targets without fully implementing the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy.  We urge the Alberta government to do the right thing and invest appropriately in effective strategies to reduce and prevent tobacco use”.

The Leger Research survey also revealed that two-thirds of Alberta respondents (68%) support a cigarette tax increase of at least $1.50 per 20 pack in the upcoming provincial budget.

“Tobacco taxes are the single most effective means of reducing tobacco use, especially among youth” said Kate Chidestor of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  “Alberta has the most affordable cigarettes in

Canada as the result of supressed taxes and high wages.  It only takes 22 minutes of labour for Albertans

to purchase a pack of 20 cigarettes in Alberta compared with 25 minutes in British Columbia and 26 minutes in Saskatchewan.  Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco use and pricing is the most effective tool to keep kids tobacco-free.  As long as Alberta maintains the most affordable cigarettes in Canada, we will continue to fight tobacco use with one hand tied behind our back.  However if tobacco taxes are raised and some of the proceeds are used to support tobacco reduction then we will have a fighting chance to meet the 10-year targets.”

The coalition recently submitted a brief on tobacco taxation to Finance Minister Joe Ceci in response to the provincial budget consultation.  The brief called for a cigarette tax increase of at least $1.50 per 20 pack and the reinvestment of at least $20 million of the new revenue to properly fund the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy.  The proposed tax increase would allow Alberta to match cigarette affordability levels in B.C. and would generate over $200 million annually in new tobacco revenue.

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations that are working to reduce tobacco use.  Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death—claiming the lives of 3,000 Albertans annually.  About 37,000 Alberta teens were current tobacco smokers when last measured in 2014.

The Leger Research online survey was conducted between January 23 and 25 among 1,005 Albertans aged 18 and over.  

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Contact:

Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546

Kayla Atkey @ 780-695-6370

Holly Roy @ 708 991 2323

 
HEALTH COALITION RELEASES GOVERNMENT REPORT CARD ON TOBACCO REDUCTION
Monday, 16 January 2017 11:45

HEALTH COALITION RELEASES GOVERNMENT REPORT CARD ON TOBACCO REDUCTION

News Release – Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta

Tuesday, January 17 - National Non-Smoking Week 2017

 

Edmonton – A coalition of prominent health organizations is giving the Alberta government a C-minus for its overall effort to reduce tobacco use in a new tobacco control report card released today.

The government received top marks for banning flavoured tobacco and pursuing legal action against Big Tobacco.  However Alberta continues to underperform in a number of key areas including tobacco affordability, restricting youth access, providing uniform protection from secondhand smoke, and for not reinvesting tobacco taxes in tobacco reduction efforts.

“The Notley government started off very strong on tobacco reduction with the implementation of a comprehensive flavourings ban and a tobacco tax increase in 2015” said Angeline Webb of the Canadian Cancer Society.   “However policy progress has virtually stalled since these actions were taken and Alberta is lagging behind other provinces in a number of key areas.  The government needs to fully implement the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy in order to prevent the tobacco industry from recruiting more kids with its predatory marketing strategies.  One of every two youths who continues to smoke as an adult will die of tobacco related diseases.”

The government received an “F” for failing to protect Alberta youth from the depiction of smoking in youth-rated movies and a “D” for not implementing and enforcing approved legislation to prohibit tobacco sales to minors.  The coalition also gave the government a “D” for maintaining the most affordable cigarettes in Canada through suppressed tobacco taxes.  The government received another “D” for not reinvesting tobacco taxes in tobacco reduction and for its failure to properly finance and implement the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy.

“We will be releasing this report card annually and we believe that Alberta can make significant progress in a number of key areas in 2017” said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking & Health.  “Alberta still has the most affordable cigarettes in Canada and the province is due for another major tobacco tax increase.  We want the government to reinvest some of the proceeds of any tax increase back into tobacco reduction just as they have reinvested a large portion of the new carbon levy into carbon reduction strategies. Other jurisdictions like California and British Columbia have directed tobacco taxes toward tobacco reduction efforts.   The Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy remains woefully underfunded and largely unimplemented even though the provincial government collects over one billion dollars in tobacco taxes each year.  Not a single dime of tobacco tax revenue is dedicated to tobacco reduction.  This contradiction cannot be justified any longer.”

The coalition is urging the Alberta government to fully implement and enforce the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act which was passed over three years ago with the full support of the NDP Caucus.   Unimplemented elements of the Act include new restrictions on tobacco sales to minors, a ban on waterpipe smoking and e-cigarette use in public areas, and a ban on flavoured shisha tobacco.

“The Alberta government needs to fully implement the approved tobacco legislation to protect youth from illegal tobacco sales and to provide all Albertans with uniform protection from secondhand smoke on the job” said Kayla Atkey of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention.  “Hotel cleaning staff, group home workers and hookah bar employees all deserve full protection from the serious health risks of secondhand smoke.  No one should be forced to breathe secondhand smoke on the job in this day and age.”

“Alberta youth also deserve first-class protection from tobacco” said Angeline Webb.  “Alberta has the worst sales to minors compliance rates of any province and the new legislation needs to be fully enacted and enforced.  There are currently more rat inspectors in Alberta than tobacco inspectors”.

The new legislation includes fines of up to $10,000 for selling tobacco to minors and it requires all retailers to card youth who appear to be under the age of 25.  Once enacted, the legislation will also require retailers to receive mandatory online training similar to the training required by liquor retailers.

The report card acknowledges that smoking rates have declined among youth and adult smokers since 2010.  However the coalition contends that these trends cannot be sustained without (1) increased tobacco taxes to reduce affordability; (2) enhanced and enforced restrictions on tobacco including the full implementation of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act; and (3) additional funding to allow for the full implementation of the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy.

Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and death in Alberta, claiming 3,000 lives each year.  About 37,000 teenagers were current smokers in Alberta in 2014 according to the Canadian Community Health Survey.

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations that are working to reduce tobacco use in Alberta.

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Contact:

Angeline Webb @ 780-239-5295 (Calgary)

Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546 (Edmonton)

 
COALITION CALLS FOR TOBACCO TAX INCREASE TO REDUCE YOUTH TOBACCO USE AND AFFORDABILITY
Friday, 02 October 2015 07:57

Minimum wage increase will make tobacco even more affordable for many Alberta youth

News Release – Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta - PDF

Friday, October 2, 2015

A coalition of prominent health organizations is urging the Notley government to reduce youth tobacco use and affordability through a significant tobacco tax increase in the fall 2015 provincial budget.  Alberta continues to have the most affordable cigarettes in Canada despite a modest tax increase of 50 cents per 20 pack of cigarettes that was announced last spring by the Prentice government.

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is also concerned about the potential for the increase in Alberta’s minimum wage to make cigarettes even more affordable for many youth.  A significant tobacco tax increase will offset the impact of a higher minimum wage.

“The Notley government has a huge opportunity to significantly reduce youth smoking with the most powerful weapon available—a tobacco tax increase” said Leigh Allard of The Lung Association of Alberta/NWT.  “The new government must reverse the previous government’s harmful policy of maintaining the most affordable cigarettes in Canada.  Alberta has fallen so far behind other provinces that a tax increase of one dollar per pack of cigarettes is needed just to move up one notch from last place in terms of relative affordability”.

It only takes 34 minutes of labour for Alberta youth aged 15 to 24 to purchase a pack of 20 cigarettes compared with 40 minutes in B.C. and 42 minutes in Saskatchewan.  A tax increase of $1.00 per pack of 20 cigarettes in Alberta would increase the purchase price to 38 minutes of labour and would move Quebec to last place where youth require 36 of labour to purchase 20 cigarettes.

“The increase in minimum wage will make tobacco even more affordable for many Alberta youth” said Dan Holinda of the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division.  “The minimum wage increase should be coupled with a tobacco tax increase to ensure that youth smoking rates don’t rise.  We are not opposed to the increase in minimum wage but a corresponding tobacco tax increase is needed to ensure that tobacco doesn’t become even more affordable.  Alberta’s minimum wage hike shouldn’t compromise the health of young people and leave tobacco companies laughing all the way to the bank.”

According to the World Bank and the World Health Organization, every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth consumption by 6 to 12 percent.  Youth are more price-sensitive than adults due to their limited disposable income.

“As long as the Alberta government maintains the most affordable cigarettes in Canada we will continue to fight youth smoking with one hand tied behind our back” said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking & Health (ASH).  “There is irrefutable evidence that tax increases reduce youth smoking.  We urge the Notley government to reverse this harmful and objectionable policy with a major tobacco tax increase as soon as possible.  Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco”.

The coalition is also urging the Notley government to dedicate at least $20 million of any new tobacco revenue toward effective strategies to further reduce youth smoking and to help smokers quit. 

“The Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy is woefully underfunded and remains largely unimplemented as the Premier has acknowledged” said Leigh Allard.  “The Notley government can demonstrate its full commitment to tobacco reduction by applying a portion of any new tobacco revenue to effective measures to help keep kids tobacco-free and to help smokers quit.  Polls show Albertans are more likely to support a tobacco tax increase if a portion of the revenue is applied to tobacco reduction initiatives.  The Alberta government can raise $180 million to improve the health of Albertans just by reducing our tobacco affordability from dead-last place to second-last place behind Quebec.”

A tax increase of $1.00 per 20 pack of cigarettes—coupled with proportional tax increases on other tobacco products—is expected to raise about $180 million in new revenue.

Alberta’s minimum wage increased from $10.20 per hour to $11.20 per hour on October 1.  The Notley government has pledged to raise minimum wages to $15.00 dollars per hour by 2018.

According to the latest Canadian Youth Smoking, Tobacco and Drug Survey conducted in 2012/2013, there are roughly 39,000 youth tobacco users in grades 6 to 12 in Alberta.

Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature mortality—resulting in 3,000 deaths annually in Alberta.

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Contact:

Leigh Allard @ 780-938-5864

Dan Holinda @ 403-541-5389

Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546

Alberta should not be straggling in after other provinces on these matters. We

should be setting the agenda in smart ways to ensure good health for Albertans”

a good government would increase the investment in tobacco reduction actions from what is

currently a million dollars per year so that the rates of use in the province would drop far more”

 

-Rachel Notley, Alberta Hansard, October 25, 2010

 
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