Friday, January 19, 2007

Hancock is Staying the Course on Smoking Issues

Interesting news release from AADAC on the focus of National Non-Smoking Week.

The Stelmach government is much more open than the previous regime. Some challenges to be sure but so long as Ministers stick to commenting on their departmental areas, offering personal opinions and spending some "political capital" is a good thing to my mind.

We don't have to agree with the positions they take but it good to see what Cabinet Ministers are thinking on important policy issues and where they want to go with them before it all goes behind the closed Cabinet doors. If they get shot down in Cabinet so be it.

This is the more open political aproach and how I would like to see it operate. Not knowing what is going into a policy discussion/decision, what is going on about it and wondering if anything will ever come out of it does not help to inform the citizenry and give them confidence.

Hancock is being taken on by Ty Lund and Lloyd Snelgrove on the smoking ban idea for "talking out of turn.?" They may disagree with the position he takes but surely he ought to be able to say something about his personal positions on heath and wellness issues as the Minister responsible. A Minister would be out of line commenting publically on policy issue outside their portfolio area but that is not what is happening here.

Hancock says a smoking ban in public places will help prevent death and disease and reduce the costly demands on the health care system over time. Prevention and wellness have to be more than words if we are serious about health care reform.

Here is an excerpt from the Edmonton Journal story today on this:

Hancock said Thursday he offered his personal opinion on the issue when questioned this week by reporters, and he has no plans to keep quiet on important public policy issues. He also hopes to forbid tobacco sales in pharmacies and outlaw large smoking displays in stores.

"I'm not driving a personal agenda. I'm driving a government agenda," Hancock said. "You can't avoid talking about public issues in public, nor should you."

Works for me!

Graham Thomson has perspective on all of this in his column today.

I see the Canadian Cancer Society is lining up behind Hancock on a smoking ban in public places too. See exceprts from their new release below:

Media Release
January 19, 2007
For immediate release
Canadian Cancer Society applauds Health Minister’s stance on smoking

Calgary… Premier Ed Stelmach’s change of heart on a provincial smoking ban came on the heels this week of Health Minister Dave Hancock’s pledge to make Alberta smoke-free. This could not have come at a better time -- January 21-27, 2007 is National Non-Smoking Week.

“Health Minister Hancock’s recent comments on pursuing strong provincial smoke-free legislation are welcome news to the Canadian Cancer Society,” says Dan Holinda, President/CEO of the Alberta/NWT Division of the Society. “We applaud the Stelmach government’s fresh approach to this issue and are behind them 110%. The new Tory leadership is taking the health of all Albertans seriously.”

Today, 10 Albertans will die as a result of tobacco, and this will happen every day this year. Tobacco use is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death in Alberta, resulting in one in every five deaths. Second-hand smoke is responsible for 1,000 tobacco-related deaths annually across Canada.

One hundred percent smoke-free legislation will follow in the footsteps of the Premier’s pledge to improve the health of all Albertans and his welcoming of legislation on this issue reflects his desire for open and transparent government – a pillar he lead with during the race for Premier. If Albertans are interested in seeing the province become a smoke-free province, the Canadian Cancer Society urges them to write the Premier and show their support for a provincial smoking ban.

“Smoke-free legislation across Alberta will help protect all Albertans - not just minors and not just those lucky enough to live in cities whose council voted in favour of the health of their constituents,” says Holinda. “Banning powerwalls, or displays of tobacco products in such places as convenience stores and pharmacies, will help prevent youth from starting to smoke, and will also help prevent impulse-buying by smokers who are trying to quit.”

Evidence shows us that smoke-free legislation, restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco industry products, denormalizing the tobacco industry, higher tobacco taxes, and bans on where tobacco products can be sold are all a part of an approach that must be taken to reduce the burden tobacco places on the health of our communities and the healthcare system as a whole.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:
Lorie Boychuk – 403-541-5375
Canadian Cancer Society, AB/NWT Division office