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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Alberta government proposes legislation to reduce use of tobacco by young people


Legislation to protect young Albertans focus of renewed Tobacco Reduction Strategy Plan includes tools and incentives to reduce tobacco use

Alberta’s new tobacco reduction strategy proposes legislation to further protect young Albertans from tobacco, actions to prevent tobacco use, and enhanced support to help Albertans quit using tobacco products.

“Tobacco use is linked to several forms of cancer, as well as many other illnesses, and contributes to the death of thousands of people every year,” said Health Minister Fred Horne. “As part of our continued fight against cancer and our commitment to the health of Albertans, this government is taking action to make tobacco and tobacco-like products less attractive to youth, further reduce exposure to second-hand smoke and help Albertans quit using tobacco.”

Creating Tobacco-Free Futures: Alberta’s Strategy to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use, 2012-2022, will focus on the following priorities over the next three years:

  • introducing legislation restricting the sale of flavoured tobacco;
  • introducing provincial legislation to prohibit tobacco sales to minors;
  • enacting legislation to protect children from second-hand smoke in vehicles;
  • increasing social marketing around the harms associated with tobacco use;
  • enhancing tobacco cessation training for health professionals; and
  • expanding workplace, school-based and community tobacco-cessation programs.

Other initiatives that government will consider over the next 10 years include point-of-sale health warning signage, tobacco tax increases, further restrictions on smoking in public areas, and expanding the availability of tobacco cessation products and resources.

“This strategy gives Albertans the knowledge, incentives and tools to make healthier choices,” said Associate Minister of Wellness Dave Rodney, who will lead the implementation of the strategy. “It contains practical and effective actions for government, health care providers, educators and communities. We all need to work together to help Albertans create tobacco-free futures.”

Proposed legislative changes to support the strategy will be referred to the Legislative Policy Committee on Families and Communities, an all-party committee of the Alberta Legislature, for consideration.

"Tobacco use in its various forms is the cause of many diseases, disability and premature death.  It's also very clear that tobacco is highly addictive. Either deciding not to start using tobacco in the first place or, for smokers, quitting tobacco use, is probably the most important thing a person can do for their personal health,” said Alberta's Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Martin Lavoie. "This strategy provides a comprehensive approach to preventing and reducing tobacco use and protecting from its harmful effects, ultimately leading to much better health for Albertans. Individuals, their families, their friends, their employers and society as a whole will benefit tremendously."

Stakeholders said the following:

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Alberta,” says Angeline Webb of the Canadian Cancer Society. “We know that it’s responsible for more than one-third of all cancers and cancer deaths. By implementing the renewed Alberta Tobacco Reduction Strategy, the government is supporting a comprehensive approach in reducing tobacco-related disease and death - ultimately protecting Albertans today and in the future from the significant and well-understood risks of tobacco. Given what we know about tobacco use, this strategy is a progressive approach that is going to help reduce the number of Albertans who pay the ultimate price every year for using tobacco.”

"The Heart and Stroke Foundation commends the Government of Alberta's commitment to continued work to decrease tobacco use in the province," said Ev Glasser, Manager, Health Promotion, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Alberta, NWT & Nunavut.

“The release of this strategy is a crucial step in protecting our children, youth and the Alberta public from the harmful effects of tobacco,” says Leigh Allard, President & CEO, The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT. “There are proven strategies that will help prevent lung disease and promote lung health so all Albertans can breathe easier.”

“The renewed tobacco strategy is an essential part of reducing the burden of chronic disease in Alberta,” says Les Hagen, Executive Director, Action on Smoking & Health. “We’ve made good progress in the past 10 years and overall smoking rates are now at an all-time low. However we must continue to apply effective measures to further reduce tobacco use, particularly among young people. Alberta youth deserve first-class protection from tobacco sales and marketing, and the renewed strategy will help to keep many more adolescents tobacco-free for life.”

“My dream is for Alberta’s youth to have a tobacco-free future” says Jianna Marin, a high school student from Lloydminster. “Today our government showed that they share this dream, that the future of young Albertans is a priority.”

“Alberta Health Services is very pleased that the new tobacco reduction strategy has been released,” says Dr. Gerry Predy, Senior Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services. “We look forward to continuing to work with Alberta Health and other Provincial Advisory Committee members to move the initiatives within this strategy forward.”

Funding for the strategy will come out of the existing Alberta Health Services tobacco reduction budget. In addition, the government has committed $500,000 a year for three years for a social marketing campaign under the Addiction and Mental Health Strategy.

Overall smoking rates in Alberta have fallen from 25 per cent in 2001 to 19 per cent in 2010. The targets for 2022 set out in Creating Tobacco-Free Futures include a decrease in smoking rates for Albertans aged 15 and older from 19 per cent to 12 per cent.

The new tobacco reduction strategy was developed by the Provincial Advisory Committee on Tobacco, comprised of representatives of several government ministries, Alberta Health Services, health professionals and non-government organizations.

To view the strategy, visit www.health.alberta.ca/initiatives/tobacco-reduction-strategy-2012.html

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