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Thursday, 12 September 2013 02:36

It’s still the Wild West when it comes to tobacco sales in Alberta

20th Anniversary of Private Liquor Sales Prompts Calls for Tobacco Sales Restrictions

Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta
News Release
Thursday, September 12, 2013

Health groups are urging the Alberta government to approve new rules to govern tobacco sales that align with private liquor sales restrictions in the province.  Last week, the Alberta government marked the twentieth anniversary of privatizing and regulating retail liquor sales.

“It’s still the Wild West when it comes to tobacco sales in Alberta” said Les Hagen of Action on Smoking & Health.  “Currently, untrained 14-year-olds can sell tobacco from unlicensed locations without any repercussions.  The lack of provincial restrictions on tobacco sales is unacceptable and makes it easier for Alberta minors to obtain tobacco products.”

“There is a remarkable difference between how liquor and tobacco can be sold in Alberta” said Sarah Hawkins of the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division.  “When the government privatized liquor sales, it placed a number of restrictions on retailers including the requirement to obtain a retail license.  Liquor sales are far more restricted than tobacco sales even though tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of disability, disease and premature death.  Alberta is the only province without its own legislation to restrict retail tobacco sales and we believe that this omission is contributing to higher youth smoking rates”.

In sharp contrast, Alberta liquor retailers require a sales license and must adhere to a number of restrictions including:

  • Hiring staff that are age 18 and over
  • Mandatory training for all staff members provided by AGLC
  • Clerks must refuse to sell to anyone under the age of 18
  • Clerks must request photo ID for anyone who appears to be under the age of 25
  • Stores must post signs and posters supplied by AGLC
  • Stores that fail to comply with can have their license to sell suspended or revoked


There is no similar provincial legislation to regulate tobacco sales.  The federal Tobacco Act prohibits tobacco sales to youths under age 18 but the legislation is weak and under-enforced.

“We would like to see all of the above measures applied to tobacco sales in the province including licensing of all vendors” said Kristin Matthews of The Lung Association of Alberta and NWT.  “We would also like to see the AGLC’s mandate expanded to include the regulation and enforcement of tobacco sales.  Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco sales and marketing.  Protection delayed is protection denied”.

Not surprisingly, compliance checks of tobacco sales to minors conducted around the province have revealed that many retailers are willing to sell to underage youth even when the youths supply valid photo ID indicating their actual age.

Alberta health minister Fred Horne pledged to introduce legislation to restrict tobacco sales this year as part of the province’s renewed tobacco reduction strategy that was approved last fall.  The status of the proposed legislation is presently unknown.

“We urge all concerned Albertans to contact their MLA and demand action to stop tobacco sales to minors” said Les Hagen.  “We cannot allow unscrupulous retailers to furnish youth with deadly and addictive products.  People can send a message directly to their MLA simply by visiting smokefreealberta-dot-com”.

About 50,000 youths are regular smokers in Alberta according to the Canadian Community Health Survey.  Over 80 percent of new smokers are under the age of 18.

The Campaign for a Smoke-Free Alberta is a coalition of prominent health organizations who are working to reduce tobacco use.  Visit for more information.

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Les Hagen @ 780.919.5546
Sarah Hawkins @ 403.309.5431
Kristin Matthews @ 403.981.8586

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