By Schnarr, J.W. on August 9, 2018.
An Edmonton-based advocacy group with a focus on Western Canada is pushing for stronger controls when it comes to smoking cannabis and tobacco in public and around children.
On Tuesday, Les Hagen, executive director for Action on Smoking and Health, said his organization is looking for Lethbridge City Council to consider a ban on smoking tobacco and cannabis in public places frequented by children, including public events and parks.
“It would look like what Okotoks and Lloydminster have already done,” he said. “It would simply be a public consumption ban on cannabis and tobacco that would take place Oct. 17.”
While some discussion still remains as to whether smoking and vaping should be lumped together, Hagen said children do not see the difference.
“To a five-year-old, vaping is smoking,” he said. “It has visible emissions and it functions and behaves like a cigarette. We are still modelling smoking behaviour when kids are smoking and vaping in public.”
Hagen called the presentation a starting point and that the group would be following up with individual council members to encourage them to bring a motion forward for debate in the weeks ahead.
A ban on smoking could potentially include public spaces such as sidewalks, but that decision would be left up to individual municipalities to decide.
“In Fort McMurray, the answer is ‘yes,'” Hagen said. “In Okotoks, the answer is ‘no.’ It really depends on where the municipal council lands. From our perspective, we would like to see smoke-free parks, and smoke-free public events.”
In the event of a ban, municipalities might opt to set up beer garden-type areas which are screened off so children are not exposed to the behaviour.
He said increases to smoking restrictions have been growing over time.
“Lethbridge was one of the first municipalities to ban smoking in playgrounds,” he said. “This is just an extention of what has been underway for the past 30 years.”
Hagen was accompanied by Dr. Lizette Elumir, Medical Officer of Health with Alberta Health Services. AHS has taken a strong anti-smoking stance in part due to an estimated 3,000 deaths in Alberta every year caused by smoking, as well as numerous health risks
According to a report released last year by the Conference Board of Canada, about 45,500 deaths in 2012 were attributable to smoking, or about 125 deaths every day.
Founded in 1979, ASH promotes smoking control in southern Alberta through awareness programs, advocacy, research, and marketing.
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