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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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Tuesday, 31 January 2012 08:28

Health groups urge Albertan's to take action on youth tobacco use

Today a coalition of prominent health organizations launched a new campaign urging Albertans to send a strong message to political leaders to protect Alberta youth from tobacco addiction. Over the next few months, the Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta will be reaching out to thousands of Albertans through social media strategies and the news media to enlist public support for provincial policy measures that will reduce youth tobacco use.

The coalition was joined at the event by Pat Tarbox, the surviving husband of Barb Tarbox who died in 2003 at the age of 42 from lung cancer caused by smoking.

“Alberta’s youth smoking rate is unacceptably high and immediate action is needed to reverse this alarming trend” said Leigh Allard, president of the Lung Association of Alberta/NWT. “We have received commitments for action on this issue from a number of influential politicians including Premier Alison Redford and other party leaders. We take these commitments very seriously and we are expecting results. We are asking Albertans to help encourage our political leaders to follow through on their promises by visiting smokefreealberta.com. Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco industry products.”
The coalition is calling for the following policy measures:

  • Tobacco tax increases to reduce the affordability of tobacco among youth
  • A ban on all candy-flavoured tobacco products
  • Stricter controls on tobacco sales to minors
  • Require motor vehicles carrying children to be smoke-free
  • More funding for effective tobacco use prevention and cessation initiatives

“The time to act is now. We cannot allow tobacco companies to continue to target kids with price discounts, candy flavourings, attractive packaging and ‘slim’ cigarettes” said Angeline Webb of the Canadian Cancer Society—Alberta/NWT Division. “We need comprehensive action that includes higher taxes and strong legislation in order to produce meaningful results. Our political leaders have the ability to stop tobacco companies from targeting Alberta youth to help kids remain tobacco-free for life”.
 
Alberta has one of the worst tobacco affordability levels in Canada. It only takes 40 minutes of labour for Alberta youth aged 15-24 to purchase 25 cigarettes compared to about 50 minutes in British Columbia and Saskatchewan and over 60 minutes in some maritime provinces. Alberta is the only province without any legislation to curb tobacco sales to minors and many retailers continue to sell to underage youth. Tobacco companies have flooded the market with candy-flavoured tobacco products and youth surveys are now reporting high rates of flavoured tobacco use. Alberta and Quebec are the only provinces that have not banned smoking in vehicles with children present.
 
“Alberta has fallen behind other provinces in protecting youth from tobacco and that is why we have higher rates of youth smoking” said Kate Chidester, vice-president of Health and Research for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “We urge all Albertans to connect with their MLAs and election candidates and request their support for strong measures to reduce youth smoking. When your election candidates come knocking, let them know that the government must act quickly to stop tobacco marketing to kids. We cannot turn a blind eye to the tobacco industry’s shameless efforts to target young people.”
 
Alberta failed to meet its youth tobacco reduction target for the past several years. In 2010, 14 percent of Alberta youth aged 12-19 were current smokers according to the Canadian Community Health Survey. The provincial target was 10 percent. About 50,000 Alberta youth aged 12-19 are current smokers. Over 80 percent of smokers begin smoking before reaching the age of 18.
 
Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death in Alberta resulting in 3,000 deaths annually. Tobacco has no safe level of consumption, it is highly addictive, and it is the only legal produce that kills one-half of its long term users when used as directed by its manufacturers.


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CONTACT:
Leigh Allard @ 780-938-5864
Angeline Webb @ 780-239-5295
Les Hagen @ 780-919-5546

 
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