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December 14th, 2013:

Edmonton Journal: Alberta legislature passes new rules on smoking in cars, use of water pipes

by Keith Gerein of the Edmonton Journal:

The Alberta legislature has passed new tobacco control legislation that will ban smoking in cars carrying children, and prohibit the use of water pipes in public.

The Alberta legislature has passed new tobacco control legislation that will ban smoking in cars carrying children, and prohibit the use of water pipes in public. This is one of the anti-smoking warnings on cigarette packages. (Edmonton Journal/Alberta Federal Government)

The approval of Bill 33 late Wednesday, combined with a separate bill to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco products, gives Alberta some of the most aggressive tobacco-control restrictions in the country, says a leading advocate.

“We are definitely at the forefront in Canada,” said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health. “Taken together, these two bills will go a long way to prevent tobacco use among youth.”

However, he said a fight still remains on the issue of menthol cigarettes.

Bill 206, which was passed Monday, includes provisions for banning the sale of tobacco with a “characterizing flavour,” such as candy-scented cigars and cigarillos and fruity spit tobacco that appeal to youth. But the exact list of banned products will be set later through government regulation, and Hagen said the tobacco industry is lobbying hard to have menthol cigarettes exempted.

Eric Gagnon, director of corporate affairs for Imperial Tobacco, said his company does not make any “confectionary” style products but believes menthol should be allowed to continue to be sold to Alberta adults.

“We do believe that anything that is overtly confectionary — cherry, bubble gum or fruity flavoured — is appealing to youth and should be banned,” he said. “But menthol has been in the marketplace for decades, it represents a very small percentage of the marketplace, and the research demonstrates that it is consumed by a more senior adult population.

“I think we need to divide these two products completely.”

However, Hagen said the recent Youth Smoking Survey, conducted in 2010-11 by the Propel Centre at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, indicated menthol is now being used by a substantial number of youth smokers in Alberta.

He said it is arguably the worst flavouring of all because it “has a medicinal impact, soothes the throat, opens the airways, and it assists with nicotine absorption into the bloodstream.”

Among the other new rules passed by the legislature is a ban on the use of water pipes or other “tobacco-like” products in bars, restaurants or other public places where smoking is already prohibited. The province has said establishments that feature the pipes, or hookahs, will be given 12 to 18 months to transition before the legislation comes into effect. But an advocacy group called Safe Shisha has warned that as many as 70 businesses may close across the province.

The legislation also makes it illegal to smoke in vehicles when children are present. Some details of enforcement still have to be worked out, but the province has said the law will be complaint-based. Violators will usually get a ticket of $250, though fines of up to $5,000 could be imposed for egregious cases and multiple offences. An exact date for putting the law into force has not yet been determined.

In addition, the bill includes a ban on tobacco sales to minors, making Alberta the last province in Canada to take that step, Hagen said. A federal law already prohibits selling to minors, but is not consistently enforced.

29 Nov 2013

Crikey: Simon Chapman honoured as Skeptic of the Year – a good time to look back on the historic tobacco plain packaging campaign

by Marie McInerney, reporting for Crikey:

It’s an opportune time to publish the recent speech Simon delivered as the 2013 Cunningham Lecture to the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, Australian National University, on: Plain packaging of tobacco products: a case study in radical health policy adoption and the role of advocacy.

A precursor to the book he is writing about the landmark campaign, the speech is packed with sharp insights into how to design and pursue policy change, including how plain packaging even got on the agenda (“I doubt there was anyone in the room who expected that the proposal would have any life other than as an historic but merely “noted” recommendation in a report.)  Simon looks at the role of research and multi-disciplinary academic expertise in informing and supporting policy change, the central role of news media in providing ‘foundational narratives’ over many years, and, of course, the instrumental role of the Health Minister Nicola Roxon, “the real super hero in all this”.

You can watch the speech being delivered here, or read the full transcript below.