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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hancock Pushing Hard for Smoking Ban In Alberta

UPDATE APRIL 24: I have ameneded this post to correct a factual error. The original post indicated the new tabacco tax was $5 per pack of cigarettes. It is not. I am told the new tobacco tax is $5 per carton. I have changed the original post but thought people should be advised of the error.
The recent $5 per carton immediate tax increase in the April 19 Alberta Budget is the first step in an effort towards a province wide tobacco reduction strategy and is just part of the new Alberta Minister of Health and Wellness, Dave Hancock’s strategic efforts to promote wellness.

In addition to a tax increase, a proposal is being drafted by Hancock for a province-wide legislated ban on smoking in public places and work places. Further provisions will include a ban tobacco sales in pharmacies and to regulate so-called powerwall displays of tobacco products. Tax increases are as rare as hen's teeth in Alberta so this tobacco tax augers well for the political potential of a legislated ban of smoking in public and work places.
This public policy initiative is not new to Alberta. It has been tried 4 times before but never made it through the political policy development process. But with new leadership and the fact it is garnering significant public support, it may have a chance this time. It will still require the government Caucus support and there is still a hard core group of resistance to the policy. With good lobbying and good government, it could/should pass - ideally in this current session of the Legislature.

Premier Stelmach has said during the PC Leadership campaign that he agrees wit the ban but would support the Caucus decision on a legislated tobacco reduction policy. Four attempts in the past have failed primarily due to the objections of the former Premier and a block of MLAs who blocked the efforts. This time with new leadership and an evidenced based lobbying effort by a coalition of some 15 professional and advocacy groups (Smoke Free Alberta) and supported by polling showing 84% of Albertans support this policy it has a better chance of succeeding.

The Alberta Chambers of Commerce are first group off the mark in pushing the current lobbying effort for the Alberta government to implement smoke-free workplace and public place legislation. Ken Kobly, the CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, says tobacco use and its related illnesses impact worker productivity.Kobly, in a video interview that will be on The PolicyChannel (http://www.policychanel.com/) Monday April 23, 2007, says that the time has come for a legislated province-wide workplace ban on tobacco use.

Kobly says Alberta is one of the few provinces that has not yet enacted province wide smoke-free legislation. And he says, while tobacco places a tremendous strain on our health care system and taxpayers, a large cost burden falls on employers as well. This is in terms of lost productivity, more worker compensation claims and the loss of employees in their prime due to smoking related illnesses.

If you support this policy initiative please take the time to contact your MLA and ideally meet with them, write to them or email them with details of your support. Website links to book mark to keep current on this initiative are at:
1. www.smokefreealberta.com/
2. www.abchamber.ca/
3. http://www.policychannel.com/
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