Local vaping advocate plans to get involved in the province’s Review of Tobacco Act

by Stephen Dafoe

Health Minister Tyler Shandro has asked MLA Jeremy Nixon to lead a review of the province’s tobacco and smoking legislation, with a focus on regulating vaping.

Alberta’s Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act does not specifically identify vaping or the use of tobacco-like products, including hookah and water pipes in public and workplaces.

A review of the Act is to begin by Nov. 1 of this year.

“Like most Albertans, I’m concerned about the rising use of vaping products, especially among young people, and recent reports of severe lung disease associated with these products,” Shandro said in a media release Wednesday. “We don’t know yet what the links are, but we know vaping has risks. We need evidence-based regulation of tobacco and related products, including vaping products.”

Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon said he shared the Health Minister’s concerns.

“I’m looking forward to helping address an issue that’s important to Albertans and to our government,” Nixon said. “We all want to protect citizens from harm – especially young people – and we want to see smoking rates come down. I’m looking forward to reviewing the evidence carefully, with help from experts. And I’m looking forward to hearing from Albertans because good policy needs to reflect the public’s views as well as the evidence.”

The province plans to release details in the coming weeks on how Albertans can get involved in providing input.

The required review must begin by Nov. 1. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 with amendments to come forward in the Spring Session.

Thomas Kirsop, a vaping advocate and owner of Alternatives & Options in Morinville and St. Albert said he plans to get involved in the consultations.

“I think that we can encourage Alberta’s 780,000 smokers to take up a less harmful product and significantly impact youth experimentation and uptake with thoughtful and well considered regulation,” Kirsop said. “These two laudable goals do not need to be mutually exclusive.”

Kirsop went on to say that a Canadian dies every 11.5 minutes due to smoking-related health impacts. “In 2012, Canadian direct healthcare costs associated with smoking-related morbidity and mortality were estimated at $6.5 billion, and indirect costs of smoking were tallied at $9.5 billion,” Kirsop said.

“In vapour technology, we have an opportunity to significantly impact this health care budget burden and reduce the instances of Canadians prematurely planning funerals for their parents, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and other family members and friends.”

Kirsop is looking forward to working with Nixon in the coming weeks and months as the province reviews the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act.

“[I will be] providing the UCP with whatever scientific evidence, and academic data the Government needs to craft solid and successful legislation and regulation dealing with vapour technology products,” he said.

On Sept. 5, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health added vaping-related acute severe lung illness to the official list of “notifiable conditions” under the Public Health Act. There have been no Alberta cases reported to date.

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