The UCP government is cracking down on smoking and vaping after consulting with more than 10,000 Albertans.
Bill 19, the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Amendment Act, follows a review of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act led by MLA Jeremy Nixon in response to the increase in vaping, smoking and tobacco use in Alberta.
Alberta is the only province without vaping legislation.
Teen vaping rates (used in past 30 days) surged from eight per cent in 2014-15 to 22 per cent in 2016-17 and to 30 per cent in 2018-19 (Grades 10-12).
“The proposed act specifically addresses youth vaping, and would add enforceable restrictions on the possession, promotion, display, sale and use of these products, in alignment with tobacco laws. It would also include the expansion of smoke and vape-free areas, especially at places frequented by children and youth,” the government said in a release.
Albertans who smoke or vape also appear to be at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19. The government didn’t provide any medical evidence to back up that statement.
The proposed new legislation says:
- Minimum age for purchasing, possessing or using vaping products would align with tobacco products (18 years and older).
- In convenience stores and gas stations, vaping displays, advertisements and promotion would need to align with tobacco restrictions.
- Aligning places where vaping and tobacco products can not be used will reduce confusion for the public and law enforcement. New places where vaping and smoking will not be allowed include:
- on hospital, school or child care properties
- on playgrounds, sports or playing fields, skateboard or bicycle parks, public outdoor pools or splash pads, zoos and outdoor theatres
- Restrictions on the locations of vaping product sales will align with tobacco restrictions, and include:
- health facilities
- public post-secondary institutions
- stores where pharmacies are located
- vending machines or temporary facilities
- Alberta’s proposed legislation will establish the authority to consider restrictions on flavoured vape if it is not covered by potential federal legislation.
“This proposed legislation sends a strong message to youth, and anyone who thinks it is OK to supply them with vaping products – there will be fines for possession and consumption. Selling or giving these products to minors will have consequences. Reducing health harms by keeping vaping products out of the hands of youth is a priority for both me and this government, and it’s what Albertans asked us to do,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
But the moves were slammed by David Clement, the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center.
“Alberta’s regulations are a huge step backwards from the perspective of harm reduction. Simply put, regulating vaping on par with cigarettes shows that the government is incapable of regulating based on the risk of each product,” Clement told the Western Standard.
“We know, from credible health agencies like Public Health England, that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking, which is why the rules around vaping should not be as strict as cigarettes. More importantly, regulating vaping like smoking discourages adult smokers from making the switch and quitting cigarettes, which is a net negative for public health.”
Addiction to tobacco products is the leading cause of preventable illness, disability and death in Alberta and yet the prevalence of smoking in Alberta is second highest in Canada.
Health costs for Alberta as a result of the use of tobacco products are estimated at $6 billion over the next four years.
In 2018-19, 15.6 per cent of Albertans aged 18 or older indicated they smoked cigarettes daily or occasionally.
“We thank the Alberta government and the Minister of Health for introducing legislation to help curb the youth vaping epidemic. Effective vaping legislation will be aligned with existing tobacco legislation to the greatest extent possible in order to provide maximum protection for youth. The Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act has contributed to achieving the lowest smoking rates among adults and youth on record in Alberta,” said “Les Hagen, executive director, Action on Smoking & Health.
In October, Nixon was tasked by Shandro with reviewing Alberta’s smoking and vaping laws.
“Thank you to everyone who participated in our consultations, wrote in, or completed our survey. Your insights and solutions were truly inspiring. Bill 19 reflects the feedback we received and ensures that we are taking the right steps to protect our youth from both the known and yet-to-be-known harms of vaping,” said Nixon
In February, the government put a 20 per cent tax on vaping products.
“This legislation is long overdue and serves as an additional deterrent to limit young people’s access to harmful vaping products. School boards across Alberta welcome additional restrictions that will keep our children safer and healthier at school and in their communities,” said Lorrie Jess, president, Alberta School Boards’ Association.
According to Budget 2020, the goal of the tax is to discourage usage, especially among youth who will hopefully see the increased cost as a deterrent from either picking up or maintaining their vaping habits.
Alberta will became the fourth province in Canada to tax vaping products, along with with Nova Scotia, B.C. and Saskatchewan.
Officials have said every 10 per cent hike in the price of tobacco, researchers have noted an eight to 12 per cent decrease in use among youth.
The government expects the new tax will not only discourage youth vaping, but also net the province $4 million in 2020-21 and a total of $8 million by 2022-23.
The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.
The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org