EDMONTON — Alberta took steps Thursday to keep kids away from cigarettes and cigarette smoke.
Health Minister Fred Horne introduced a bill to crack down on those who sell tobacco to minors and to levy fines on adults who smoke with kids in the vehicle.
Horne also said the government will back a private member’s bill from backbencher Christine Cusanelli that will stop the sale of flavoured tobacco products, which is considered a gateway product to entice kids into becoming lifelong smokers.
“We are here for the singular purpose of protecting the health of children and youth in our society for the long term,” Horne told a news conference at a southside high school.
Bill 33, the Tobacco Reduction Amendment Act, will give the province the same authority as the federal government has to fine those who sell tobacco to anyone under 18.
Anyone caught selling to minors will likely get a $500 ticket. But the province has the option of imposing fines up to $10,000 for a first offence, and up to $100,000 for subsequent offences if the circumstances warrant.
The bill will extend the ban on smoking in public places to tobacco-like products such as waterpipes.
Horne said if the bill passes, that element will be phased in over a year to allow public places to make the required changes.
Adults caught smoking in vehicles with children would get a $250 ticket, but the province can, if circumstances warrant, levy up to $1,000 on a first offence and up to $5,000 on subsequent offence.
Cusanelli’s bill, Bill 206, is aimed at stopping the sale of flavoured tobacco to everyone, not just youth.
Les Hagen of the advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health, says flavoured tobacco is the hook used to lure in children.
“The tobacco companies have flooded the market with flavoured products over the past 10 years,” said Hagen.
“We’re seeing high rates of flavoured tobacco use among young people here in Alberta and across Canada.”
Bill 206 has passed second reading in the legislature and is now being debated line by line in committee of the whole.
Horne said the bill takes aim at all flavoured tobacco, but wouldn’t say if the favourite flavour, menthol, will be part of the ban when the regulations are written.
“The approach is to allow for these decisions to be made on a product-by-product basis in regulation,” said Horne.
“I’m not going to try to prejudge the outcome of what will happen with the bill in the legislature.”
Hagen said menthol needs to be part of the ban.
“Half of the kids who are using flavoured tobacco are using menthol,” he said.
“It soothes the throat, it opens the airways, (and) it assists with nicotine absorption in the bloodstream.
“Because of its chemical properties it is the worst flavour.”