Tobacco sales to minors in Alberta has increased, according to Health Canada.
In Alberta, 17 per cent of retailers sold tobacco to underage test shoppers in 2009 compared to 10 per cent in 2006.
Action on Smoking and Health, a Western Canada tobacco control organization, released the numbers on Monday, which was World No-Tobacco Day.
Gail Foreman, Red Deer spokesperson with Action on Smoking and Health, said there have been voluntary compliance programs encouraging businesses not to sell to minors in place for a number of years in Alberta, but it seems that something more needs to happen.
Federal legislation prohibits selling cigarettes to minors, but Foreman suggests the provincial government needs to move forward with complimentary legislation — as other provinces have done — and have the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission oversee licensing and regulation of tobacco retailers.
Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission enforces sections of the provincial Tobacco Reduction Act and the Tobacco Tax Act, also ensuring retailers no longer showcase tobacco products in a powerwall format. However, the commission doesn’t have authority over tobacco licensing or sales to minors.
“The voluntary programs aren’t having a sustained impact on preventing youth from accessing tobacco products,” Foreman said.
She said fewer teenagers are smoking compared to 10 to 15 years ago, but 16 per cent of youth between the ages of 15 to 19 are still able to access tobacco products and are smoking regularly, according to the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey.
“The best way to reduce the overall numbers of people using tobacco and becoming addicted to tobacco is to prevent them from starting,” Foreman said. “And we know from experience and years of research that if we can delay that experimentation and that use of tobacco to after 18, or the longer we can delay it, the less likely that they will experiment with it or get addicted to it.”