Nunavut MLAs tighten territory’s smoking laws
Legislature passes amendments to Tobacco and Smoke-Free Places Act
Tenants in public housing can no longer smoke inside their homes and the sale of flavoured vaping products are banned in Nunavut, among other changes, after MLAs made changes to the territory’s tobacco laws this week.
MLAs passed amendments to the Tobacco and Smoke-Free Places Act on Tuesday.
The changes are meant to prevent people from smoking — specifically youth — and to regulate developing products, such as vaping, Health Minister Lorne Kusugak said in the legislature May 28.
Now, the minimum age to buy nicotine is 19, smoking in cars with youth inside is banned, and there is a maximum level of nicotine permitted in smoking products.
“These measures will help to better protect people from second-hand smoke and will have an immediate impact,” Kusugak said.
The law was last amended in 2018, Kusugak said.
Kusugak also fielded questions from MLAs on the bill on May 28.
Arviat North–Whale Cove MLA John Main asked if there is any evidence that vaping products are being used more by Nunavut youth, or if the policies were designed around increasing numbers in Canada’s south.
Kusugak said the trend is in its beginning phases and that it would be best to get in front of the issue.
“It is starting to catch on and it is gaining traction and we would really like to put a stop to that,” he said.
Main also asked how the law will be enforced in the communities.
The important part is educating vendors what the new rules are, Kusugak said, adding that there will be about six enforcement officers for the territory to start, with the option of using bylaw officers.
Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq asked whether the law will work effectively against buying and selling tobacco and vaping products online.
Kusugak admitted that’s something the government may have trouble controlling.
“If people want to conduct themselves in illegal matters, that would have to be dealt with by the proper authorities,” he said.
Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone said he is especially glad to see that smoking in cars with minors will be prohibited, but he also had some questions about how other parts of enforcement will be managed.
He asked when tenancy agreements for public housing will specify that no smoking is allowed indoors, to which Kusugak replied that it will be at least two years until that policy is developed.
Once it is developed, it will apply to all public housing tenants.
Fifty-one per cent of Nunavummiut 12 to 19 years old smoke, according to the 2018-19 Tobacco Control Act annual report. That is six times more than the national rate.
Across the provinces, 16 per cent of people 12 and up smoke, compared to 62 per cent of Nunavummiut, according to the report.
In some Nunavut communities, it states, 84 per cent of people smoke.