Tobacco use under fire

To strengthen the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the government has proposed banning flavoured tobacco. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)
To strengthen the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the government has proposed banning flavoured tobacco. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)

The Ontario government has rolled out new legislation this week aiming to reduce the provincial smoking rate to the lowest in Canada.

The Youth Smoking Prevention Act proposes new regulations with the goal of strengthening the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

If passed, the Act would prohibit smoking on restaurant patios and sports fields, in outdoor playgrounds and it would double the fines for those who sell tobacco to youth, making Ontario’s penalties the highest in the country.

The Act would also ban the sale of flavoured tobacco products and prohibit tobacco sales on post-secondary education campuses.

Alberta minister of health, Fred Horne, is in support of the proposed Ontario bill. Matthew Grant, media spokesperson, spoke on behalf of minister Horne and explained that the support for the

Ontario legislation arises from concern regarding youth tobacco use.

“Our rationale,” Grant said, “is to protect children and young people from the effects of tobacco products.”

Grant elaborated that health professionals believe there is a correlation between the use of flavoured tobacco products in youth, and an increased likelihood of continued tobacco use into adulthood.

The province of Alberta has also introduced similar legislation to the Youth Smoking Prevention Act, Bill 206 the Tobacco Reduction Amendment Act.

“Our government here has pledged to support the legislation in Ontario,” Grant added.

Beverly Wessel, a fourth-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University, believes that the proposed legislation to ban flavoured tobacco products is targeting an appropriate demographic.

“I think people think of [flavoured tobacco] as not as serious as actual cigarettes and not as harmful,” she said. “So a lot of young people buy them.”

Each year, tobacco use results in the death of 13,000 Ontarians, the equivalent of 36 lives per day.

Tobacco-related disease also costs Ontario taxpayers an estimated $1.9 billion in health care costs and an additional $5.8 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity.

Deb Matthews, minister of health and long-term care for the Ontario government strongly advocated for the approval of this legislation.

“We are taking strong action to prevent young people from becoming addicted to tobacco in the first place,” Matthews said in a media statement.  “The passage of this legislation would be another big step toward our government’s goal for Ontario to have the lowest smoking rate in the country.”

However, not everyone is in support of this motion.

Mike Fishback, a student at Conestoga College, was critical of the proposed legislation.

“I think it’s stupid and I don’t think it will be effective,” Fishback said. “Putting a ban on flavoured tobacco won’t stop people from getting tobacco products elsewhere.”

“I think tax payer money could be spent on different things.”

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