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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)

 
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