The Alberta government will push forward with a ban on flavoured tobacco “as soon as possible” while also dealing with the use of “dangerous” electronic cigarettes, says rookie Health Minister Stephen Mandel.
During a meeting with Canada’s provincial and territorial health ministers in Banff on Tuesday, Mandel said Alberta will move to restrict the sale of flavoured tobacco products as legislation passed in Dec. 2013 awaits provincial proclamation. If implemented, Bill 206 will ban all flavoured tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.
“We’ve got to finalize the regulations. We’re looking at doing that as soon as possible,” said Mandel.
“There’s always challenges with the different aspects of it but the important part is to make sure we focus on ensuring that those kind of products that could do damage to children are taken off the market as quick as possible and we’ll make sure we do that.”
B.C. Health Minister Dr. Terry Lake said the ministers were pleased when federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced regulatory amendments to close loopholes in the current law. Tobacco companies have been getting around a ban on adding flavours to cigarettes that weigh less than 1.4 grams by removing filters and changing the weight.
“It’s clear that tobacco companies have taken the opportunity to skirt the legislation and regulations, which are designed to prevent products that would appeal to young people below the age of smoking,” said Lake.
Ambrose has announced a 30-day consultation period starting Oct. 10 during which the ministers will submit recommendations to the government, said Lake, who noted some provinces “would like to go a little further” and discuss electronic cigarette regulations.
When asked if he supports restrictions on the marketing or sale of e-cigarettes in Alberta, Mandel said he doesn’t think the government has decided on a course of action but personally endorsed more regulations.
“I would hope that we take the same position on those as we did on other tobacco products and push that through. That would be my position and I hope that the Alberta Government would support that. It’s my position that these are dangerous drugs, from what I’ve been told, and dangerous materials and we should deal with them in that way,” he said.
Leigh Allard with the Lung Association of Alberta and Northwest Territories encouraged the other health ministers to follow Alberta’s lead.
“We don’t need another patchwork of inconsistent and inadequate provincial and federal laws. Youth across Canada deserve just as much protection as youth in Alberta,” she said.
Mandel said the group will meet with Ambrose on Tuesday evening to discuss flavoured tobacco and e-cigarettes as well as several other issues including federal funding that needs to recognize demographic differences, the need for a national pharmacare program, and concerns about the availability of medical isotopes.