Anti-smoking advocates believed the Alberta Tories make efforts to reduce youth smoking as the provincial government launched its new cigarette reduction plan on November 19.
The plan, launched five months later than intended and a decade after the initial anti-smoking plan, may involve a prohibition on hookah smoking in lounges, limits on flavoured tobacco, and anti-tobacco education and marketing projects.
Health Minister Fred Horne earlier affirmed that Liberal Leader Raj Sherman’s bill prohibiting smoking in cars where children are present will be announced.
But critics are unhappy that cigarette tax increases won’t be involved in the plan, stating the cost of tobacco products are making it easy for youngsters to take up smoking.
In accordance with statistics from the Smoking and Health Action Foundation in April, cigarette taxes in Alberta total $57.85 for a 200-cigarette carton, $10 less than Saskatchewan and $6 less than British Columbia — in part since Alberta doesn’t have provincial sales tax. Only Ontario and Quebec have reduced total cigarette taxes.
The last increase in Alberta was $3 per carton in 2009.
Alberta is as well the fifth least expensive area in Canada to purchase cigarettes. A carton of cigarettes costs there $90.55. Along with the high revenue levels in the province, it makes tobacco products very acceptable, said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.
He said that without cigarette tax hikes, it will be difficult to fight youth smoking.
But, he and other advocates believe that the health minister will dedicate part of the plan to fighting youth smoking.
In June, in reply to an Alberta Health yearly report demonstrating} a raise in smoking among young adults, Horne said the cigarette reduction plan “is going to aim at a significant} level on youth.”
The study displays that in 2009, 25% of people aged 20-24 years old said that they were smokers. By 2010, that number of smoking people had grown up to 30%. The number of young adults aged between 12-19 years who reported smoking also increased, from 12% in 2009 to 13% in 2010.
Hagen said he expects the government will enforce prohibitions on flavoured tobacco products to help reduce the number of smokers.
The Liberal leader said any law that will help reduce teenage smoking rates has the full support of his caucus.
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